A treasure trove for art lovers has been discovered in the library of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose’s library on the second floor of his residence.
The sight of an oil work on a 5ft x 3ft canvas is not an ordinary piece of art.
It’s a work by Nicholas Roerich, a legendary Russian painter who is enlisted as one among the nine ‘national artists’ of India. Roerich’s work is rare in Kolkata, very rare, artists and art lovers say.
Layers of dust have take away the glow of colours from the painting, while a part of the canvas at its bottom is already torn. If not taken care of, immediately, and by expert restorers, the masterpiece is surely going perish. But a ground floor room where Bose used to meet guests would be of far greater attraction for art lovers.
There are 21 wooden panels in this room in which Nandalal Bose painted various stories from Mahabharata. Time has taken its toll on those paintings, too.
And if Raman Siva Kumar, principal of Kala Bhavan of VisvaBharati, is to be believed, these murals on Mahabharata are of immense historical importance in the world of art, as they were Nandalal Bose’s first major work with murals. During his visit to Kolkata two years ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had declared that the residence of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose would be renovated and prepared as a science heritage museum.
Perhaps no one briefed him that the four-storied building on 93, APC Road is important not only because of the scientific instruments lying inside but also due to such enormous collection of art.
Thanks to the trustee of board that is looking after this house since 2009, the situation is not bad. Restoration of these invaluable pieces of art has started.
A sketch of Nati by Nandalal Bose on a 5ft x 3ft canvas has already been restored and kept at the first floor bedroom of the scientist.
Several other paintings and photographs have undergone restoration.
“The next in line for restoration are the wooden panels on which Bose created those murals on Mahabharata stories,” Parul Chakraborty, a retired scientist and member of the board of trustees, told HT.
“The Nicholas Roerich would also be restored soon,” she added. Once restoration is done, the board of trustees would place the paintings for display in galleries created inside the house.
G M Kapur, convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which has been entrusted with the task of restoration of art works and books and renovation of the building, said that restoration of the Mahabharata murals would be start once the monsoon ends.
“These murals are of great importance. These are his first major work on murals. He did these after his return from Ajanta where he was copying the cave paintings. But these murals, besides influences of Ajanta, also displays some Japanese influence and portrays Bose’s originality,” Siva Kumar, one of the most eminent authorities on modern Bengal masters, said.
Bose created these murals during 1917-18, when he was working at Bichitra, an art school ran by the Tagore family.
Sourindranath Kar helped him during these works.
“They need to be restored with extreme care,” Siva Kuamr cautioned. The same room has a huge copy of Abanindranath Tagore’s famous work, Bharat Mata, painted on a wall.
While it has so far been widely attributed to Nandalal Bose (perhaps due to Bose’ overwhelming presence in this room), painter and art historian Samindranath Majumdar pointed out that it was actually a creation by Iswari Prasad Verma, a Bihar-born painter who used to teach at the Government School of Art and Craft.
“According to an account by Nandalal Bose himself, this version of Bharat Mata was created by Verma. Nandalal Bose has written that Sir JC Bose was an avid lover of art and used to speak a lot on it,” Majumdar said. That painting, too, is in bad shape with damp in the wall affecting it.
The house built in 1902 by the scientist also houses two copies of the Vande Mataram flag created by Sister Nivedita in 1906.
The flags, though of historical importance, are worn out. Besides, there is a 11th/12th century Aditya statue of black stone, two several Buddha statues of different ages and an exquisite range of classy furniture.