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The 40s and the 50s : Independence of India was not entirely a matter of celebration for Bengal, as it had to now endure the long suffering arising out of the partition of Bengal. Till the end of 1960s, art of Bengal was dominated by partition issues than anything else. Ritwik Ghatak's entire body of works was dictated by the concerns of the refugees. Majority of Bengal's artists had also their roots in the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) including Ganesh Paine, Jogen Chaudhuri, etc. Artists like Zainul Abedin left for Bangladesh where he worked since then rather independently. This division in the artist community remained a great loss to Bengal. 

The 60s and the 70s :  In the 1960s, came the next major change in art as Bengal started getting increasingly involved in left-wing politics. By 1970s, Naxalism was sweeping across Eastern India. Many artists of the time had openly supported the movement, while others like Prokash Karmakar had painted canvases in their support.

The 80s : The third phase of Bengal's post-independence art came with the end of Naxalism, and with  the left parties firmly in power. But this phase found the artists of Bengal groping for issues to paint about. Culturally this was not a very active phase. Some notable artists of this phase had been Sameer Aich, Sanat Kar, Jayashree Burman and Manik Talukdar.

 Painting of Sameer Aich

The 90s and new century : In 90s, a gradual change was observed in the field of art as the country was getting liberalized and artists were getting exposed to many international trends. Thus Post-liberalization phase is a brand new phase in art. Among the various new artists, Devajyoti Ray best represents this new vibrancy. With new idioms of expression and entirely newer languages of art, this phase once again put Bengal in the art map of India.

 

 
    
     
 

Somenath Hore

The independence of India brought in two major changes in Indian art. Firstly it made the erstwhile mood of rebellion against the British quite irrelevant. Secondly the artists had now to create an Indian art which would be appreciated by the jubilant Indian crowd free from the yolk of colonialism. Thus in nutshell one had to create nationalist art work without rebellion.

 

 Etching by Somenath Hore

This problem was sought to be tackled by artists in various ways. In Bombay the young artists like MF Hussain, FN Souza, SH Raza and Akbar Padamsee formed Progressive Artists Group. In Calcutta artists like Paritosh Sen and Pradosh Dasgupta started the Calcutta Group . Both this groups worked in parallel for sometime, then both broke and the artists charted their independent careers. The artists tried to capture the moments of glory in Indian political and economic scapes. But in course of time themes became passé and what artists mostly worked on was once again style. In terms of style post-independence Bengal was truly majestic.

 

Zainul Abedin

A painting by Zainul Abedin, one of the founding members of Calcutta Group. Below painting in Gouache medium by veteran artist Pritish Ganguli

Along with style artists of Bengal have worked in various media. Such varied use of media has not been seen in any other part of India. These included Oil (Bikash Bhattacharya, Sanjay Bhattacharya), Watercolours (Shyamal Duttaroy, Paresh Maiti), Acrylic (Devajyoti Ray), Gouache ( Ganesh Haloi), Conte (Ganesh Pyne), Collage (BR Panesar, Shakila), Etching (Somenath Hore), Mixed Media , Graphics, Tempera (Ganesh paine), Intaglio, wood0cut and linocut, etc. In fact there had hardly been any media that the Kolkata based artists have not worked in.

 

Pritish Ganguly

Ramananda Bandhopadhyay

This was truly an explosion of ideas and styles in art in India and it was to show the way to the new generation of the artists of the future. Collage, appliqué, installation works were to show the way to the more complex multidisciplinary art of the new generation.

The post liberalization phase of Indian economy has brought in now newer and swifter changes. People from outside the realm of fine-art training are entering the field and making their mark in the art world. Art has truly undergone a sea change over the past ten years and the ideals and ideas of the old Bengal is giving way to new ideas.  

A line drawing by Ramananda Bandhopadhyay

 
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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