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The artist who was named as the best painter of India in the 1970s by M. F. Hussain



One of the most notable contemporary artists of Bengal Schools of Art whose dark imageries got him an international fame, Ganesh Pyne was born on this day, 11 June 1937. He was described as a man who ‘radiated a mysterious quality’ by filmmaker Pritish Nandy.

Printed drawings by Abanindranath Tagore in Mouchak, a Bengali children\’s magazine and a major exhibition of his works at the Indian Museum in 1952 influenced him in becoming an artist. He joined the Government College of Art and Craft and graduated in 1959. His first painting “Winters Morning” reveals the influence of Abanindranath Tagore on him.

He started his career as a book illustrator and animator at Mandar Mullick’s studio in Kolkata. There he came in contact with Clair Weeks, Disney animator from Los Angeles who taught him how to distort and exaggerate features to convey different emotions and he used this technique to instill a sense of uncanny in his paintings. He was active in the robust adda culture in Kolkata. He participated in Paris Biennale in 1969 and the group show of contemporary Indian painting in West Germany in 1970.


Born and brought up in Kolkata, he spent most of his life time in this city and rarely left Kolkata, which in turn meant it took time for his work to gain international recognition. He had his first solo exhibition only after he was 50 at The Village Gallery in Delhi. It was not until the late 1970s, when M.F. Hussain named him the best painter in India, that he came to nationwide recognition for his dark surrealism. Owing to the impact he had in 1946 due to his father’s death, and his family getting caught up in the Calcutta riots, he was obsessed with the dark world and was known as ‘painter of darkness’ for using dark colours such as black and blue and motifs suggesting death and death, pain and solitude remained consistent themes in his work.


He married to the love of his life, Meera Dutta in 1990 when he was 53. After that there was a gradual shift in the mood of his paintings, the darkness was not so overwhelming anymore. In his later years, he produced a series of works that drew from the Mahabharata but focused on the peripheral characters such as Eklavya and Amba and these were exhibited in Kolkata in 2010.


He was conferred with several awards and accolades such as the Raja Ravi Varma Award by the Kerala government and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce in the year 2011. He also does have a documentary to his credit titled ‘A Painter of Eloquent Silence: Ganesh Pyne’ directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta; it was awarded the National Film Award for the Best Arts Film. He passed away from a heart attack on 12 March 2013.


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