Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on Kalighat paintings in response to a 1932 article by Mukul Dey
London: In conjunction with the collection of Kalighat paintings currently featured on The Story I would like to share few extracts from an article by Mukul Dey published in 1932 by Advance, Calcutta.
Born in 1895, Dey was a prolific author and pioneer artist and print maker who adopted and experimented with different Western techniques but remained faithful to Indian themes and imagery in his work.
Dey was one of the first writers to express support for a ‘national’ art, and wanted to build a museum of national art in Calcutta, but did not manage to accomplish this project, which was later undertaken by Rabindranath Tagore.
In this 1932 article, Dey reflects on the disappearance of Kalighat paintings over the years, and attempts, through his words, to revive an interest for this superb art form of Bengal.
In his essay the artist recalls a visit to the Mother Kali temple in South Calcutta, when he saw many different shops suited for pilgrims that were displaying souvenirs as well as these magnificent works of art.
“These drawings had a peculiarity of their own which attracted the attention and interest of any man who had any taste for art and drawings. The drawings were bold and attractive and at the same time their technique was so different and simple, that they looked something absolutely distinctive from their class found anywhere else.”
Before the disappearance of this tradition, Kalighat was a great market for these paintings and other goods, since pilgrims wanted to bring back memories and souvenirs of their spiritual journey.
“These drawings from the Kalighat patuas, however, would naturally possess a peculiar interest and if they would be hung up in any place amongst ten other pictures, they would outshine the others not only for their different characterization but for their wonderful colour-effects and contours as well…From a study of the drawings it will be found that these patuas were expert in handling the brush and colour and they were keen observers of life, with a grim sense of humour.”
A Vashnava Saint Preaching Doctrine of Non Violence to a Pair of Hungry Looking Tigers. Kalighat Paintings; 19th Century.Image Credit: Mukul Dey Archives http://www.chitralekha.org/article
According to Dey, after some time, these pictures disappeared from the market, and no artists or buyers were to be found in Calcutta. Saddened by the disappearance of Bengali traditional culture, Dey felt it was our national duty to revive and glorify this art through support as patrons and the training of the new patuas.
Dey played an influential role in the shaping of Bengali art, and he left after him an incredible painting tradition. So please do not hold back from acquiring any work from this special collection of Kalighat Paintings celebrating the traditional art of Bengal through modern and contemporary patuas.
Click here to read the full article by Mukul Dey.