Published: Visva Bharati Quarterly - Founded by Rabindranath Tagore
Provenance: From a private Mumbai based collection, artwork was acquired by a famous freedom fighter and business man directly from the artist
Thence by descent
Ramkinkar Baij joined Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan in the year 1925. A student of Nandalal Bose he joined this prestigious institution on the recommendation of Ramananda Chatterjee, the editor of Prabasi and Modern Review. His paintings of nationalist leaders during the Non Cooperation movement caught the editor’s attention.
While studying in Kala Bhavan he displayed efficiency and created wash paintings, his fascination with the tribe of Santhal was credited to their way of living in proximity with nature. His painting titled “Santhal Couple” dating back to the year 1930 is one of his most important works as it is among the early artworks that was created and acted as a reference to his theme and set of models. Through this painting the artist has executed strong and bold brushwork with a minimal and predominant dark colour palette. The only luminous hue is incorporated to drape the figure hereby establishing its shape and existence. The male figure is etched in a mere shadow form in the background which brings forth the three dimensional aspect Ramkinkar Baij wanted to achieve. Elegantly poised and with an earthen flooring the artist keeps the realism alive through the detailing. Almost on the edge of impressionism this portrait justifies the narrative, by making it darker in tone he keeps the situation real and alive. His imagination is based on the emotions experienced by his couple, in complete embrace and unison in their rural hut in the absence of light at night. This artwork is among the most important artworks he has ever created.
A tribute retrospective of his works was held at the National Gallery of Art a decade after his death. His works are permanent installations at the Kala Bhavan campus include his 1938 monumental sculpture called “Santhal Family” and his statue of “Buddha”. He died in the year 1980 and worked on a sculpture while he was in the hospital. Maverick and a true artist till his last breathe.