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Nandlal Bose

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1883, Tarapur, Bihar, India
Died 1966, Kolkata
Lived and worked in Santiniketan, West Bengal

Precursor of Modern Indian art and Mixed media, Nandlal Bose was a highly accomplished artist of Bengal School of art. Having mastered the wash technique, he contributed a massive body of work which was instrumental to the development of Modern Indian Art. He was sensitive to the world around and was interested in finding a symphony in the universe and nature. His works can be best described as an amalgamation of modern and tradition, primitive art and nationalist influences.



Student of Abanindranath Tagore, Government School of Art and Craft, Kolkata


Commercial Class, Presidency College, Kolkata

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He simultaneously emerged as a nationalist as well as artist

Nandalal was a worthy successor to Abanindranath Tagore as artist and teacher. The style of Nandalal Bose is to be seen as an amalgamation of both traditional and modern values in terms of theme and technique. His growth as an artist and the nationalist movement happened over the same period of time. Thus his art reflects the desire to revive the cultural authenticity and spirituality. His journey as an artist shows the huge range of themes he covered in his artwork- from mythical to political . His literary works also reflect the same. His idea of painting and how to perceive it is very thought provoking. All of these gets reflected in his book titled 'Vision and Creativity.'

Nandlal Bose, Bapuji, 1930.

He paid great attention to observing the surroundings

He also played a very important role in shaping the creativity of his contemporaries. He was invited by Tagore to be the first director of Kala Bhavan in Shantiniketan. The surrounding of the land of the red soil was attractive and thought provoking. Renowned painters and sculptors from all over the world visited the institution. The cultural exchange was massive and was beneficial to both. It is here that he picked up his other styles like the Japanese brushwork and altered it with the skilful use of the combination of bush and ink on silk or postcards. This painting appears very lucid in terms of its visual language.

Nandlal Bose, New Clouds, 1937.

He constructed a national identity for the present through the visual imagery of the past

Nandalal Bose's work deeply reflects the socio-political condition of Bengal and its surrounding areas during his time. Trained in the British academic style of painting, his artworks were perfect in terms of the realist depiction of objects, yet he tried to include objects and things from everyday life which in turn helped to construct a national identity. He also explored the Ajanta Murals and the paintings by the patua community of Bengal to show the 'other' indigenous traditions of painting in Bengal. These are a part of the heritage in the Indian tradition. The viewers thus get a taste of both the world, in terms of academic realism and his originality as an artist.

Nandlal Bose, Ardhanariawar, 1935.

He revived traditional art techniques in his nationalist fervour

Nandalal was never overtly political in terms of content in his artwork, but what is rather interesting to notice is that he wanted to revive the traditional techniques and styles and merge it with his modern ideas thus creating something absolutely new and different. Bose prepared a series of posters for a particular political party's session; here he used the Bengal pata style referring to the rural style of painting . He made a large number of posters which were superbly creative in their subject matter and style at the same time. Therefore his commentary on world affairs was subtle but hard hitting.

Nandlal Bose, Lino-cut illustration from Sahaj Path, 1930.

His works reveal an interaction between the local and the global

The way Bose included indigenous communities in his artwork is remarkable. The Santhals who lived around the University of Shantiniketan happen to be a recurring theme. Bose explores their way of life, their daily activity and their idea of family and social behaviour. Moreover, since the Santhals were the initial inhibitors of the eastern plains therefore by making them the subject of his painting he tried to comment on the effect of urbanisation on the local population. This was in one way a commentary on the effect of colonialism at a microcosmic level.

Nandlal Bose, Sati, 1943.