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…”
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?
About the Artist
Born: Calcutta .
Education: G raduated in Fine Arts
form the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta
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