End of a golden age: Artist Paritosh Sen passes away

October 23rd, 2008 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 23 (IANS) High priest of Bengal modern art Paritosh Sen passed away in Kolkata Wednesday evening. He was 90. The artist is survived by his wife.

Sen was admitted to the hospital Sep 5 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was on life support. Sen was cremated Thursday.

Born in the Dhaka district of Bangladesh in 1918 in a family of Ayurveda healers, Sen was the founder of the Progressive Group of Artists in Kolkata in 1941, which infused the flourishing Bengal school of art with new life and creative expression over the next three decades. The world of nature, colour and movement fascinated him from childhood.

Some of the autobiographical vignettes that he penned and drew during his lifetime bore addresses of the natural landmarks like the lakes, forests and of his erstwhile Bangladesh home.

One of his most enduring written works was the “Jindabahar Lane”, named after the street where he lived in Dhaka. He was one of the 20 siblings in a big family brood.

He was also an accomplished art writer.

“Sen is one of those artists who have been working tirelessly all through his life in silence. During his early years, his works did not have any market, but he carried on, undeterred. Even the media was silent about him till he died. His death marks the end of an era in Bengal art,” leading Kolkata-based contemporary artist Ganesh Haloi told IANS over telephone.

Haloi, who was close to Sen, said the artist was working even a few days before his illness for a show later this month. “The invitation cards had been printed,” he said.

Sen was a rebel. After finishing school, he ran away from home to join the Government School of Art and Craft headed by Deviprosad Roy Chowdhury. His list of illustrious peers included K.C.S Panicker, Prodosh Dasgupta, Gopal Ghose, Nirad Majumdar and Ramkinkar Baij.

He left for Europe in 1949. In Paris, he studied in Andre Lhote’s School, Academie Grand Chaumier, Ecole des Beaux Arts and Ecole des Louvre, where he researched art history.

A five-hour meeting with the legendary artist Picasso and his family in 1954 at the French master’s residence left a deep impression and Sen returned to Kolkata. He taught art at the Netarhat School in Palamau near Ranchi in Jharkhand.

In the early sixties, the French government commissioned him to design Bengali typography used in scripts of Rabindranath Tagore. Sen was also the artist in residence at the Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore. In 1985, he was invited by the National School of Design to be the artist in residence.

He also spent a few years in Madhya Pradesh.

“The independent movement that Sen started in art continued till the sixties, pumping fresh ideas and an element of ’swadeshi’ in Bengali art which was dominated by European influences and historical themes.

“In the sixties, we took cue from the Paritosh Sen’s Kolkata Group and set up the Society of Contemporary Artists for survival’s sake,” Haloi said.

Sen’s last major show was held on his 88th birthday in Gallerie 88. “It had 88 paintings. He wanted it to be 88+88+88,” Haloi explained.

The immediate reality around Sen appealed to his artistic sensibilities. Influenced especially by Rajasthani paintings, he explained his penchant for strong colours and architectural forms with human figures bathed in strong light.

Kolkata-based artist Prasoon Ray, who used to visit Sen at his New Alipore residence in Kolkata, said he was doodling linear figures in ink one-and-a-half months ago.

Sen was also an ardent admirer of Shri Ramakrishna.

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