READING NANDALAL BOSE (Part 1)
-Abbas Annoy Malakar
Reading into the works of a well-known master like Nandalal Bose the first problem I faced was how after watching one of his paintings I was immediately contradicting myself on two or three fronts due to the amount of ready information I already had in my mind regarding them. This information was rooted in what I had been taught at school or heard from people over time and was not linked to my own perception of these. I have therefore tried to keep this essay detached from what I have studied previously and focused on my perception of his exhibited works which are mostly personal sketches or drawings he mailed or presented on special occasions.
The first thing one notices when looking at Nandalal's works is that he did not attempt at realism rather excelled at naturalism. His vision was sharp, enforced by a clear understanding of form, texture, proportion and his own position in the environment that he was studying- for which one could easily regard him a romantic. What is visible and magnificent is that he was not afraid to experiment with forms and textures while at the same time could make the audience feel the softness or lightness of his subject: the one sketch that comes to mind is the one he made of leaves as a side study for a different sketch where one can truly feel the breeziness of the leaves.
Two of his works' charecteristics that have fascinated me are how he uses minute details peripheral to the focus of his subject and how he handles the depiction of the weight of his subjects. There is this sketch where he has drawn a tree and that is the focus but on observing closely one can situate a bird, completed in four or five exceptionally skilled short strokes, sitting on one of the branches; this is a detail at first completely overlooked. Another drawing is of a boat tied to the shore with three ropes which seem to fly in the air as wind is passing and it is this kind of fine suggestion that makes one immediately regard Nandalal as one of the historic greats of mastering the shades of ink for faithful representation, no less than Su Shi or Tomioka Tessai, both of whom reduced details to the mere
essentials. Nandalal can be more readily compared with Tessai since both explored and mastered a wide spectrum of wet blurred lines to dry harsh tones of ink.