India’s only daily art newspaper

Fusion of Individuality and Roots: Celebrating the Art of Jamini Roy

Vaishnavi Srivastava

11th April, ON THIS DAY

“Peace is not good for an artist. How can that happen? The mind strives and burns all the time in the creative activity of art.”

— Jamini Roy

Black Horse
Courtesy: Saffron art

The legend of Jamini Roy can plainly be described best by the following excerpt from a poem by Nissim Ezekiel-who was a valued admirer of Roy’s work- titled “Jamini Roy”:

“Among the adult fantasies

Of sex and power-ridden lives,

Refusing their hostilities,

His all-assenting art survives.”

As the excerpt very strikingly puts it, The power in Roy’s work is derived from the underlying fact that Roy refused to believe the universally accepted notion of how the major motivations behind human actions are power plays or lust. Roy had the ability to look beyond the superficial to see romanticism and capture the intricacies of human life. Ezekiel sees his brilliance, depicting Roy as a saviour in a world devoid of order and inflicted with the chaos of the insincere.

Santhal Drummers
Courtesy: The Tallenge Store

Born on April 11th, 1887, Jamini Roy was an Indian painter who was predominantly famous for his works on rural people, the Santhals and Folk Art. In his younger days, at the mere age of 16, Roy attended art school, wherein he studied the Western styles of artwork, following which Roy started to make commissioned portraits. However, due to the ongoing wave of nationalism, Roy decided to drop the art style. During this period, is when true individualism of Roy started showcasing in his works. In the 1920s, Roy started his pursuits of exploring Folk Art in order to find a more nationalist and Indian form of expression. Stretched elongated eyes, bright colour schemes and a focus on the subject are one of the characteristic features of a Jamini Roy painting.

Courtesy: Goa Art Gallery

The altercations with Folk Art- techniques that have been preserved for over 3000 years- and the customary

Crucifixion of Christ
Courtesy: The Tallenge Store

meetings with the rural and the Santhal tribe completely changed the trajectory of Roy’s work. He started depicting instances from rural lives and everyday instances of the villages and the tribes. It is said that Roy portrays his themes through strict lines, symmetrical, intriguing colour schemes and calligraphic brush strokes. Moreover, In the early years of the 1920s, Roy incorporated the “Flat Technique” in a number of his artworks.

It is important to highlight the secular format of Jamini Roy’s painting. Roy described himself as a Patua- which is a community of artisans that exists in the states of Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand, etc.-and his paintings follow the Kalighat style of art that is characterized by bold brushstrokes. Roy majorly painted scenes from the Indian mythology of Ramayana and Krishna, however, the artist did not limit himself to Hinduism as he created paintings depicting the crucifixion of Christ.

Roy is deemed to be one of the most legendary painters of Modernist India, with major contributions to the time period. Roy introduced the South Asian style of iconography to the Modern Art Movement of the 20th century. It is his ageless talent and the evergreen relevance of his artwork that awarded him several accolades, such as Padma Bhushan, Lalit Kala Akademi and the Viceroy’s gold medal.

Krishna and Balarama
Courtesy: Mutual Art

In an era where the largest part of the upcoming generations feel the need to keep up with the West, Jamini Roy’s artworks are living proof of why we need to get back to our roots in order to be authentic and original while exploring our individuality in a world full of impersonators and mimics.

Recently, Roy’s studio in Kolkata-which has been acquired by DAG- has been announced to go under a restoration process. It is being renovated into a Modernist Art experience which would include a cafe, artefacts, rotational shows, tools used by Roy as well as his original artworks. The space will be an experience that incorporates the life, art and architecture of the Father of the Folk Renaissance. The project is set in hopes of being completed by the end of 2024.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *