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Art in India had never been a profession which could provide the artist with enough resources to sustain a life time. Most artists in the past had to remain employed in some job while doing art in the free time. Artists like Abanindranath Tagore and then Nandalal Bose remained art teachers. The condition of one of the greatest artists of the time Ramkinkar Baij was even worse. He had to make clay idols for commercial sale, paint name boards, decorate rickshaws and carriages and design local jatra posters.

Ramkinkar Baij

  Artist Ramkinkar Baij

 After independence the situation improved. But even then most painters could not think of doing only painting for sustenance. Thus Ganesh Pyne had to do illustration work for children's books, while Ganesh Haloi, another artist of the Society of Contemporary Artists was employed in the Archeological Survey of India. Sunil Das remained a bureaucrat for a long time.

 But at least these artists were working in organisations where their talents had some use. More unfortunate are the ones who had to work in such organisations where art had the least of use. Prokash Karmakar is one such artists. Driven by penury, he had to join the army only to get entirely disillusioned and leave it later for art again. BR Panesar continued as an officer for the Central Statistical Organisation till retirement and Bhupen Khakar remained an accountant.

In recent times , artists like  Sanjay Bhattacharya had worked for a long time for an advertisement agencies, Devajyoti Ray started as a Government Officer and   Shakila sold vegetables for her livelihood. The immense variety of people coming from such diversified fields is also a reason for diversity that we are seeing these days in post-liberalization art.   


        Prokash Karmakar, is the perfect example of that proverbial artist who passes through penury and sufferings without ever abandoning his craft and then one day emerging as a master to enthrall the world. Born in 1934, Prokash Karmakar suffered poverty since childhood. His father, a good artist himself made no money from art. Yet Prokash joined the Government College of Art , Kolkata. 

 In 1949, Prokashís parents died, forcing Prokash to abandon his art studies and join the army. But he left army again and took up art for a living. Now his situation became so precarious, that he had to start selling his works on the street. Since then he had developed a penchant for exhibiting his works on the streets. No other artist in India has exhibited his works on the streets the way Prokash Karmakar always does.

Artist Prakash Karmakar


        Success never came easy for the artist. In 1962, he tried to form a society of artists in Kolkata, which was to work parallel to the now established Society of Contemporary Artists . But after a few years, the group fizzled out and Prokash abandoned the Group to travel abroad to Paris to study art.


Painting of Prakash Karmakar

 Typical of Prakash Karmakar's works where men and women disguised as mythical figures are shown in bold flat colours.

Artwork by Prakash Karmakar


Medium and Techniques of Art

        Prokash is predominantly an acrylic and oil artist. He has tried in various other media like pastel, ink and even water colours, but the best of Prokash Karmakar had been canvas works either in oil or acrylic. Karmakarís works show thick lines to draw human figures and then simplified back grounds. The patches Karmakarís works are painted flatly in bold colours.

Major Themes

        Prokash Karmakar in his younger days had depicted the degeneration in moral terms of the society that he lived in. In his younger days his sympathy lied with the naxalite movement in Bengal. But in his later day paintings, his themes mostly moved towards simple peaceful village life. He sometimes depicted village people in the models of mythical figures like Krishna and Radha.





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