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From Famines to Santhals, Anti War to Labour Class, Ramkinker Baij Used His Sculptures as Political Statements

Vaishnavi Srivastava

25th May 2023. ON THIS DAY.


What I see with my eyes in this world’s garden in the light of day, I represent in my painting; what I touch and feel in it’s darkness, I embody in my sculpture


-Ramkinkar Baij


From sculptures to paintings, nothing was left untouched when it came to the versatile experimentalist, Ramkinker Baij. Born on May 25th, 1906, the pioneer of Modern sculptures in India, Baij is credited to be one of the most significant figures in the Indian Modern Art movement. He was born in the Bankura district of Bengal in an economically deprived family. Baij studied in Shantiniketan after a recommendation from Ramananda Chattopadhyay. Following the completion of his studies at the Kala Bhavan, Baij joined Shantiniketan as a faculty. 

The Santhal Family by Baij.
Courtesy The Santhal Resources

His works of art have a range of influences from Nandalal Bose, Tagore and even Cezanne. Baij however, was not a conformist. His experimentations with sculpting opened new pathways for the upcoming artists in India. Baij introduced new ways for sculpting via cement concrete casting instead of the more famously followed expensive plaster. Moreover, in his paintings, his experiments resulted in the usage of linseed oil in his oil paintings and the usage of shoe brush on silk. 

Thresher by Baij.
Courtesy: The Heritage Lab

Defining himself as a non-conformist, Baij never followed the rules of Realism or Modernism. However, his contributions existed at a time when traditional Indian art was transitioning into Modern art, which is what makes his artworks notable in the studies of the Indian Modern art movement. In his early years, he briefly followed the Impressionist style of painting wherein his art style was inspired by Cezanne and Picasso. Moreover, he was even inspired by Cubism which was heavily reflected in his paintings. It is to be noted that Baij took inspiration from several great artists, but his resultant artworks show his own interpretations of the art style along with his stark individualism. 

Call of the Mill by Baij.
Courtesy: Flickr

Some of Ramkinker Baij’s famous sculptures include the Santhal Family, Call of the Mill, Thresher, Famine, Sujata and many more. The Santhal Family sculpture by Ramkinker Baij in particular, showcased his true ideologies, as the larger-than-life sculpture displays a family of the Santhal tribe. At the time, huge sculptures and figures were limited to Gods and rulers; however, Baij took his efforts to portray the Santhal tribe in such a display of glory and splendour- a sculpture that now sits in Shantiniketan. His works on the Bengal Famine are living proof that Baij was inspired by real-life figures and incidents. His art was a protest, it was political and included anti-war ideals with a strong sense of nationalism.

Famine by Baij. Courtesy: ArtBuzz






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