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On Jamini Roy’s birthday, learn what he said about Tagore’s art

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If women with almond eyes and curvaceous figures caught your eyes on Indian temple walls, they found an answer on the canvas through Jamini Roy’s paintings. What however, many of us are not aware is that he was extensively trained in Western style of painting though he returned to his roots and studied Rabindranath Tagore’s painting style. He was trained under none other than Abanindranath Tagore, who was considered as the founder of Bengal School of Art. 

Jamini Roy had a vision far ahead of his times. He was keen to amalgamate the folklore and folk art of Bengal and use indigenous materials such as mill-made paper and vegetable-based pigments made from flowers, mud and powdered rock to bring what we today call fusion art! Rabindranath Tagore had been known far and wide as a poet and author. But his paintings and sketches were hardly discussed, other than by Nandalal Bose, who gave elaborate lectures to his students of Kala Bhavan, dissecting the poet’s art form.

Jamini Roy was probably the first working artist to have spoken about Tagore’s art work in details and his views were for the first time published in Buddhadeb Bose’s newspaper Kabita. It was Bengal circa 1348. His essay in Kabita known as Rabindranather Chhobi was appreciated by the poet himself. In 1941, Tagore wrote a letter to Jamini Roy expressing his delight after reading the essay. He wrote: “I am relieved that a stalwart in art like you appreciated my paintings. The audience in Bengal has hardly understood my art form and has rarely seen merit in it. Frankly, there are very few in Bengal, who understands the intricate nuances of an art form that is different from the Western format. To understand art, one needs experience. Most critics do not have that and hence feel criticizing paintings will make them famous. It will be for long that my poems and paintings will not get their due worth and recognition in this country. But I am happy that they have and will find a place in the hearts of people like you, who are the true thinkers.”

This was indeed a huge recognition for Jamini Roy. Roy also made many observations about Tagore’s art form. He realized Tagore drew in Western style and in order to understand his paintings, a critic should be proficient in European style of painting. Incidentally, Tagore had no formal training in Western style of painting, but his line drawings and colour combination reflect that form. Purely through imaginations, he could bring them to life. But due to lack of formal training, he was not able to bring the Western style to perfection. Jamini Roy knew of that shortcoming. Yet he understood the versatility and uniqueness of the paintings too.