The canvas of spring in the Capital has been set ablaze by the colours of Ramkinkar Baij, who is regarded as the founding father of modern Indian sculpture, at a mega retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). The showcase features 350 art works by the artist, who was based in Shantiniketan.
Ramkinkar, who passed away in 1980, painted the landscape and the people around him in Bengal - capturing their strife and struggle for existence in pre-Independence and post-Independence India. He shared a special rapport with the backward ethnic people whom he brought into his art. A recurring motif in his art is the “tall well-built woman”, winnowing and thrashing paddy, symbolsing the “mother goddess of abundance”.
“Ramkinkar was a modernist with his themes well grounded in the local and the present. His work was a unique assimilation of what he took away from European art and his deep-rooted Indian sensibilities,” says union culture minister Selja, who inaugurated the exhibition.
“The range of human suffering Ramkinkar saw around him lead him to transform immediate facts into allegorical, symbolic and occasionally even didactic images,” she says.
The exhibition, covering nearly five decades of Ramkinkar’s life, has been curated by K.S. Radhakrishnan, one of the artist’s students at Kala Bhavan in Shantiniketan. Divided into segments, the exhibition attempts to thread a visual narrative of Ramkinkar’s journey as a modernist painter, sculptor and social realist within the canvas of early contemporary Indian art.
The exhibits include his early studies of nudes and the human figure, water colour compositions, tempera landscapes, oil paintings on canvas and his smaller sculptures of yaksha-yakshi - sets of rugged concrete and stylised bronze heads.