Noted painter Jamini Roy’s Kolkata house to be turned into museum

Mar 29, 2023 12:48 AM IST

Kolkata: The house of noted painter Jamini Roy at Ballygunge Place in south Kolkata will soon be turned into India’s first private single-artist museum

Kolkata: The house of noted painter Jamini Roy at Ballygunge Place in south Kolkata will soon be turned into India’s first private single-artist museum.

15 July 1994 - Jamini Roy artist - HT Photo.
15 July 1994 - Jamini Roy artist - HT Photo.

The 74-year-old house has been acquired by DAG, a Mumbai-based art house, and will be turned into a private museum and cultural resource centre on the life, work and times of the pioneering artist.

“This is the single-most important project undertaken by DAG in its three decades. In dedicating the Jamini Roy House Museum to the nation, the people of Bengal and all art lovers, we are ensuring the participation of people from all walks of life in this exercise,” CEO and managing director Ashish Anand said in a statement on Tuesday.

In 1949, Roy moved from his Baghbazar residence in north Calcutta to the Ballygunge Place house. He lived in this house till his death in 1972. Roy was declared a National Treasure in 1976. He was awarded the Viceroy’s gold medal in 1935, the Padma Bhushan in 1955, and elected a fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1956.

The interiors would be restored to bring to life the artist’s workspaces and homespun ethos. The museum will have a built-up area of 7,284 sq ft across three floors, a courtyard with outhouse and terrace spaces.

It would be equipped with state-of-the-art galleries to house the permanent collection as well as rotating exhibitions, community spaces like a resource centre and a library, art workshops and event spaces, as well as a museum shop and café.

The house, designed by the artist and his son Amiya Ray, was single storied, but as the family grew, new rooms and additional floors were added. The ground floor was reserved as a workspace for Jamini Roy and Amiya Ray, and there was a separate entrance to the private spaces on the upper floors reserved for the family.

Roy exhibited his works in several of the larger rooms, displaying them on wooden stools of various heights and on ledges, seldom hanging them on the wall. For example, the room on the right of the visitors’ entrance was known as the Christ Room, where he displayed his Christ series of paintings.

Visitors from around the world — from Indira Gandhi to Uday Shankar — often visited to meet the artist, see his works and also buy paintings. For important guests, local authorities would clean the street and arrange for flowerpots, but inside the home they would be offered the same bare bones wooden stools to sit on, with a sheet of paper in place of a cushion.

One of the key events each year would be the Bengali new year celebrations, which coincided with Roy’s birthday. The house would be full of visitors through the day, all dressed in simple Indian attire, with passionate addas accompanied by tea, samosa and a special sherbet.

“I have grown up hearing my mother’s stories and memories of her grandfather and his art and his discipline and the way his studio was his temple,” Arkamitra Roy, great granddaughter of Jamini Roy, said in a statement.

“We are delighted that DAG is sharing the legacy of my great grandfather’s house as well as his art practice with the people of Bengal and art-lovers everywhere,” she said. “He always wanted his art to reach the people and this is the ideal way to pay homage to him.”

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