Born in 1887 in a remote village in the state of West Bengal, Jamini Roy studied at Kolkata’s Government School of Art. Initially, he painted in particular, in the Post-Impressionist genre essentially of portraits and landscapes, in keeping with his grooming as part of a proper British academic system.
By 1925 though, he started to experiment along the lines of the then popular bazaar paintings synonymous with the Kalighat temple. By the 1930s, he almost completely switched over to indigenous materials for painting on woven mats, wood coated with lime and cloths. The motivation to paint on woven mats was the textures the artist noticed in Byzantine art that he had observed in color photos.
The Santhal tribe in West Bengal’s rural districts formed an important subject matter for him. A series of works that he did was a perfect example of the way he fathomed the qualities, an integral aspect of native folk art and blended the same with his own style. His fusing of elements of tribal art (terracotta work in a temple in Bengal) with the minimal brushstrokes of the popular Kalighat style gave rise to a unique blend.
The artist's firm rejection of the prevailing modern style of painting coupled with his foray into the folk paintings of Bengal was an important development in Indian modern art. He painted forms and figures like the Christ, the mother and child etc in two-dimensional forms, with an emphasis on the lines and flat color application. The subjects, laced with decorative borders and motifs in the background, were mesmerizing.
Jamini Roy’s works were showcased as part of several solo and group shows in India and internationally. Honored with the Padma Bhushan award in 1955, the artist died in 1972.