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'Migration'
Nikhil Biswas

Nikhil Biswas' artistic career was cut tragically short, at a pivotal point in the shaping of contemporary art history in India . He was a passionate artist, who worked swiftly and fervently, expressing his creativity in an idiom as innovative as it was personal. His meteoric passage across India 's art firmament – brilliant and brief – ended when he died at Sri Lanka in 1966. But his name remains indelibly etched in the glorious saga of Bengal art.

Following his first solo show in 1953, Nikhil Biswas forged a new group called the Calcutta Painters, together with young contemporaries like Prakash Karmakar and Bijon Chowdhury. Jogen Chowdhury, Rabin Mandal and Gopal Sanyal are other noted members of the Calcutta Painters. Biswas was also a member of the present Society of Contemporary Artists in Calcutta .

Eminent art colleague Shyamal Dutta Ray describes his years spent with Biswas at Art College and thereafter, “A student of 1 st Year with such matured ideas and skill created some confusion among our teachers…Nikhil was quite obstinate and refused to accept the stereotyped regular instruction … In 1951, seven of us blacklisted students of Art College formed a group with Nikhil in the lead. It was the ‘Chitranshu' Group and we held exhibitions in Chowringhee Terrace. Chitranshu is the name of the seven horses in the chariot of the Sun, the most vigorous and energetic horse being Nikhil Biswas … his speed of work astonished us … in a span of only 17 years he painted a huge mass of paintings and drawings … but Jesus crucified, a vigorous bull or the outburst of a lone horse, seemed to be his very own expression … of protest … With a very short life of only 36 years he shook the very roots of our artistic existence … posterity will write his name in history…”

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‘Migration'
water colour
22” x 32.5
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‘Storm Horses'
mixed media
30” x 40”
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Both the themes and style of Biswas' works reflect the temper of the turbulent conflict-racked period immediately before and after India 's independence. They conceptualize and articulate “a profound sense of post-colonial social and psychological tension and turmoil in manners”, through distorted representations of forms and figures.

Biswas used lines with power and expressiveness, strongly delineating, bending and twisting them to his purpose. Color effects, often vividly whorled and complexly structured were used with similar emotion – even when his palette comprised soft hues only. Emotive issues – the Bengal famine, the seething cross-border ‘Migration' of stripped, scrambling humanity after the trauma of India's Partition, and the human upheavals triggered by the India-China War of 1961, were among his more typical themes. But representation of the day to day lives and aspects of men and animals – particularly horses, his symbols of strength and virility – exude a similar stormy power.

His preoccupations and inferences on art and artistic purpose are best summed up in his own words. “Lonely as I am in this wide world, I see how this spirit of loneliness has infected the mood of our modern artists and colored their work … I should like to dissect everything connected with a ‘human being' – his blood and muscle, his morbidity and sexuality. But this effort sometimes leads me to a point of no return, where dehumanization becomes the natural order of things. Still I find no release from this painful urge to search…”

And again, “But I'm after an aspect that should be perceptual. I want to enjoy myself in art. I want to live peacefully and hopefully with the inmates of my soul. I want to delineate truth against the background of eternal and universal values, the intrinsic nature of which remains ever unchanged. This is the agonizing problem before the artist today … Every moment the clarion call of the birth of ‘the new' beckons to me. So I cannot ignore ‘the new' as easily as I can discard ‘the old'. Because is not the new an indispensable part of my own being?

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About the Artist

Born: Calcutta .

Education: G raduated in Fine Arts form the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta , 1954.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

Nikhil Biswas figured in many exhibitions at home and abroad, of which at present records are not available to us. The following are a few:

  • 1953 Calcutta
  • 1954 Calcutta
  • 1966-'67 Dresden , Germany
  • 1978 Retrospective, Academy of Fine Arts , Kolkata
  • 1988 Retrospective, Chitrakoot Art Gallery , Kolkata
  • 2006 Retrospective of ‘Calcutta Painters' dedicated To Nikhil Biswas
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Anindita Saha
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Debashis Chakraborty
Debabrata Chakrabarti
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Dipti Chakrabarti
Gautam Basu
Gora Chand Bera
Jogen Chowdhury
Joydip Bannerjee
Malay Chandan Saha
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Manoj Dutta
Mona Ghosh
Munindra Rajbongshi
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Paresh Maity
Paritosh Sen
Pradip Bhowmick
Pradip Das
Partha Pratim Ghosh
Pradip Rakshit
Prokash Karmakar
Ranadip Mukherjee
Reba Hore
Sajal Roy
Sanat Kar
Shipra Bhattacharya
Shuvaprasanna
Sipra Dattagupta
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Swapan Palley
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