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Ramkinkar Baij: The father of modern Indian sculpture

May 25, On This Day  

Ramkinkar Baij, one of the iconic sculptors, painter and the most seminal artists of modern India was born on this day 25 May 1906 in a poor barber family in Bengal’s Bankura district.


He used to imitate the local idol maker Ananta Sutradhar at a very young age and at the age of 16 his talent caught the eye of eminent journalist Ramananda Chattopadhyay who referred him to Kala Bhavan. He got admitted to Kala Bhavan in 1925 under the guidance of Nandalal Bose. He along with Nandalal Bose and Benodebehari Mukherjee played a vital role in making Santiniketan the most important centre of modern art in pre-Independent India.

After completing his studies, he became a faculty member at Kala Bhavan and started filling the campus with sculptures which were innovative in subject matter and personal in style. The themes he explored in his sculptures were the same in his paintings too. Despite his exposure to contemporary European art world in Santiniketan, he never imposed colonial ideals of art to his art form. Rather than following all the accepted rules that governed art he instead focused on intuition as his main driving force.


All his sculptures of various themes and that of famous personalities are great contributions to the heritage of Indian sculpture. “Lamp Stand” in 1940 is an example of a new wave of modernism with distinct use of abstract in his sculptures. ‘Santhal Family’ in 1938 and ‘Call of the Mill’ are two of his most famous works. The figure of Yakshi placed at the entrance of Reserve Bank of India was made by him from Shivalik Sandstone that depicts the idea of ‘prosperity through agriculture’. It was derived from ‘Bisnagar Yakshini’ from the Calcutta Museum.


The cement bust of Rabindranath Tagore in Balatonfured, Hungary by Ramkinkar got into controversy for “it did not resemble Tagore”. Later the same was replicated by the Indian government and given it to Colombia, Finland, and Israel.

For his irrefutable contribution to Indian art, the government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan in 1970. He was a fellow of the Lalit Kala Academy in 1976 and was also conferred the honorary doctoral degree of ‘Desikottama’ by Visva Bharati the same year.

He died on 2 August 1980.

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