Abirpothi

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Remembering Satyajit Ray\’s grandfather, who pioneered engraving, colour printing in India

December 20, On This Day

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Did you know famous auteur Satyajit Ray\’s grandfather was a pioneer of engraving and colour printing in India?

Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury was born in May 1863 and has his death anniversary today, on December 20 (1915 was the year of his demise aged only 52).

He is the father of Bengali writer-poet Sukumar Ray and the son-in-law of Brahmo Samajist Dwarkanath Ganguly. This entrepreneur began the colour children\’s magazine, Sandesh, way back in 1913.

Upendrakishore is said to have first introduced modern blockmaking, including half-tone and colour block making, in South Asia. According to Wikipedia, when the reproduction using woodcut line blocks of his illustrations for one of his books, Chheleder Ramayan, were very poor, he imported books, chemicals and equipment from Britain to learn the technology of blockmaking. After mastering this, in 1895 he successfully set up a business, U. Ray and Sons, of making blocks at 7, Shibnarain Lane, which then became his residence-cum-workplace. He experimented with the process of advanced blockmaking, and several of his technical articles about blockmaking were published in the Penrose Annual Volumes published from Britain.

Scroll reports that his grandson Satyajit Ray wrote of him: \”The two most amazing qualities of Upendrakishore as an artist are his multifacetedness – his versatility, and a successful synthesis of eastern and western art in his talent… He has chiefly produced two kinds of art. One was his favourite oil paintings, the majority of which were landscapes and the other were his illustrations. There is no doubt that his real expertise lay in the oil paintings. I’ve personally seen many of these – the Sal forest of Giridih, the Usri River, the hills of Darjeeling, or the sea of Puri. The most noticeable feature of these drawings is that the nature’s unique beauty, disposition or mood seemed to have left an indelible impression on him – and that was the quality of profound serenity. This tranquil moment touches on a note of mystical ecstasy in his personality… Both content and method mark his oil paintings, but the exact opposite is observed in his illustrations… On the one hand there was the influence of the English academic art, the Japanese woodcut, Rajput and Mughal miniatures, even the use of Bengal folk elements and on the other, the use of extraordinary power of personal observation – in all what Upendrakishore created was discernible a style that was essentially his own.\”

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