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Women may have been the most popular subject for art but as artists women had for long been ignored in the field of art. However the situation in Bengal had been slightly better than what it was in most other parts of India. Entire Bengal Presidency in the early nineteenth century had been swayed by reformist social movements which made many families take a more liberal attitude towards women's participation in education and cultural matters. This attitude was found mostly in the upper class Brahmo families like that of the Tagores. Thus this family produced probably the first set of women artists who had exhibited their works in public galleries . the most famous amongst them was Sunayani Devi .

In 1907, the Indian Society of Oriental Art was formed by the Bengal School artists. In 1915, the society organised the first women's exhibition in Calcutta. But most of the participating artists could not continue in the field after this first exhibition. Nevertheless the process of women's entry in the field of art had already begun. In 1919 Nandalal Bose was brought to Santiniketan by Rabindranath Tagore . A separate wing for women students was opened. Women artist from abroad were also called to teach women student at Kalabhavan.


A painting by veteran artist Reba Hore

After independence however things changed more rapidly. The most popular Art group of the time- the Calcutta Group had Kamala Dasgupta among its members.


A painting in the style of Bengal School Wash works: Roma Mukherjee

Generally it has been found that women artists enter the field following their husbands or other family members who are already established in art. However this trend is now changing as we see an increasing number of women artists who are entering the art field without any prior connection to the art world.


        Shakila, born in a poor family, wife of a vegetable vendor is today one of the front ranking artists working in Bengal. She was inspired, helped and introduced to art world of Kolkata by BR Panesar sometime in the late 1980s. Panesar who is credited with the introduction of many important young artists in Kolkata, including Devajyoti Ray,  is said to have adopted Shakila as her foster daughter. With Panesar’s aid Shakila had entered the art world and then gradually created an independent space for herself.


        Today Shakila is probably the only other collagist apart from Panesar whose works sell in the market and fetch good prices. Shakila’s initial works were inspired by Panesar but her later day works show marked differences. While Panesar's works showed city scapes, Shakila mostly made scenes from rural life. Another significant difference is that Panesar's collages had a special feature. A single collage of Panesar always looked like a piece of haphazardly pasted strips of papers when seen closely, yet when seen from a distance, the strips of papers looked like coherent piece of realist imagery. This specific style of collage which for sometime was practised by artists like Devajyoti Ray, is however very different from those of Shakila where things are clear from the begining and the emphasis is laid more on expression. 

         Shakila's collages are easy to understand collages and reflects her unsophisticated approach to life.


                  by Shakila

Shakila's simplified collage works

                  by Shakila


Medium and techniques of work

        Shakila is primarily a collagist. She cut strips of paper by scissors and then pastes them side by side to create images of rural scenes.

Major Themes

        Shakila’s works are easy to interpret. They depict direct scenes of rural Bengal as encountered by the artist in her daily life. Of late she has also created semi-abstract collages.







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