• Abbas A Malakar

READING NANDALAL BOSE (Part 2)


Most of these sketches stand witness to the masterfully impactful and minimalist nature of his strokes where not one line has been drawn that was not necessary to express his vision although there are some that are too clumsy and even, some could go to the extent of saying, clumsy or dirty. There is indeed that cartoonish quality in some of his human and animal figures that an unconscious audience would regard as immature; this I have not found in any of his depictions of nature.

He did not just paint but also made notes, documented and dated his subjects which were not only present but constituted his environment or at least surrounded his fancy to the extent that he perhaps felt present in the environment directly both as a leisurely viewer and a dedicated chronicler. Some of these, most of which are done on postcards, seem to have had writing on them, some even have hints of perhaps a small letter which have been restricted from view due to the way they have been framed.

Most of the drawings have a pencil drawing under the ink. What is that about? Why is Nandalal Bose looking for permanence in his work? To be able to keep his drawings or to be able to present them to other people so that they can keep them for longer periods? Or is this about a sense of perfection that he might have picked up from Japanese culture? This has truly occupied my mind. Perhaps I've given this more thought than necessary. Maybe he is simply grasping at a form that he was not confident he could achieve flawlessly directly with ink.


One painting that poked at me on closer observation was the one depicting a burning building, perhaps a depiction of the time the boys' hostel caught on fire. It was the only fully coloured painting in the exhibition, postcard size. it depicts a house on fire surrounded by spectators- forms that are simply symbolic of human figures through a circular head and an elongated body, completely black in colour. The colours red and yellow dominate. Black, used in solid blocks, gives the colours a greater brightness in contrast and itself seems to glitter as if powdered glitter

had been sprinkled on it. There is a small use of green or most probably blue which seems like green in association with the surrounding yellow. The figures surrounding the house seem more curious than panic-stricken. the two figures on the roof, sliding down, and the one rushing out of the house seem to more comic than tragic. A bit of hurry can be felt in those coming out of the house but the only panic is probably felt in the tiny rooster that is running scared which also is comic in its own way. The whole aspect of the panic in the theme of this painting or at least an understanding of it, I have felt, has not been properly conveyed to the audience- which according to Herbert Reed is the purpose of an artist. In view of his other works, Nandalal's skill cannot be in question. did he then consciously incorporate certain comic aspects into this painting?

Abul Mansur writes about Zainul Abedin that he "... attempted to embrace the innate 'truth' of an object's existence; its inner life, so to speak, its location in time and space, and its relationship with the artist's own mind. Above all, Abedin's intention was to situate the well-defined object within a deeper context of feeling and personal awareness." I feel this can be said of Nandalal as well though at times, looking at his sketches for longer durations, I have felt that he might have suppressed his emotions to a certain extent to get such results as he did. I cannot be sure of this and hence the question is still ringing inside my mind: did Nandalal Bose, in the course of his academic and personal practice, perhaps give more importance to accurately capturing his subject than to accurately expressing his emotions? His mastery of the brush of course could have held no bars on this front.

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