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Realism in Europe has gone through many phases. The earliest realistic works commissioned by either the royalty of the churches had bible-scenes explored in great details. As this rested purely on artistís imagination as how heavenly scenes might look like, this phase is often referred to as the romanticist phase.

A slightly later development was the realist school where scenes were depicted with contemporary truth as perceived by the artist.

In India realism arrived with the British who needed artists to paint Indian scenes for recording purpose. There was little scope for romanticism and the early company school painters painted daily scenes from Indian life without any element of fantasy. This is where artists like Hemen Majumdar differed as they used realism to depict life with a mix of fantasy.  

Post independence artists like Bikash Bhattacharya and then Sanjay Bhattacharya took forward the same tradition. But now artists were getting exposed to new international ideas like surrealism where techniques remain realistic but the artist paints purely out of imagination.

Another idea called the magic realism was also becoming popular during this time. It made use of realistic techniques to depict realistic scenes without any distortion. Yet their remained a subtle irony, or fantasy which was the artistís own creation.

In the post-liberalization phase, we are now witnessing the rise of yet another new genre of art called pseudo-realism where the scenes remain realistic but the technique used is that of abstraction .










Realism in art is as old as art itself. In fact every artist at one point of time tries his hand at realism. And realism is the most understandable and the most appreciated of all art forms. Yet in art world nobody is a true realist because imitating nature in its entirety is not possible. With the advent of the twentieth century when photography reduced the need for realist painters, the distortions of reality, and the freer expressions of artistís inner self became more common with the result that realism of the romantic era (in Europe ) gave way to newer genres: surrealism, magic realism, super realism and now pseudorealism.

Hemen Majumdar

Hemen Majumdar (left), one of the early Bengal school artists painted in a romanticist tradition, while Bikash Bhattacharya's realism (right) had more down-to earth charm

Bikash Bhattacharya


In the late part of twentieth century however artists having traveled the circuitous journey through these phases of art, returned once again towards realism. In Bengal this style was brought back by Bikash Bhattacharya and continued by his disciple Sanjay Bhattacharya .

But neither Bikash nor Sanjay ever painted reality in their true form. In fact to some critics both these painters have only used the technique of realism, but in their themes they remained mostly surrealist. Surrealism started by artists like Dali and Degas had inspired almost all the artists of India in the early twentieth century. What Bikash Bhattacharya did was to give this surrealist idea an Indian and a Bengali flavour mixing mythology, folk icons  like Durga, etc to create a dream imagery.

Shyamal Duttaroy

Shyamal Duttaroy (left) use surrealist themes and realist techniqes, while in Devajyoti Ray's works (right) we find a whole new way of approaching realist themes without any reference to realist techniques.

Devajyoti Ray

Similar surrealist themes with folk imagery have been tried by Ganesh Paine  too but Paine cannot be called realist in any way. Besides Paine has worked in a variety of medium other than oil, which are not suitable for realism.

In the post liberalization phase, artists like Shyamal Duttaroy and Paresh Maiti have tried painting comprehendible figurative art which are not exactly realist. Yet the need for a non realist yet comprehendible and popular style was felt. To a certain extent pseudorealism now fills the gap. Pseudorealism is a style where simple regular scenes of life are portrayed in realistic drawings but then the colours and shapes are distorted to give a vibrant imagery. Devajyoti Ray   is its new proponent and his style is becoming popular with time.








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