The earliest landscape handscrolls painted by Benodebehari Mukherjee have been showcased at an exhibition hosted by the Kolkata Centre for Creativity (KCC), in association with Gallery Rasa.
The exhibition titled ‘Scenes from Santiniketan & Benodebehari’s Handscrolls’ has been curated by R. Siva Kumar. A publication titled ‘Scenes from Santiniketan’ authored by R. Siva Kumar was also launched on the occasion.
Two of the handscrolls by Benodebehari Mukherjee
Speaking about the curation, R Siva Kumar said: “Benodebehari decided to paint nature and his pioneering scrollwork from 1924 is on display. Before him, no significant work was done in the genre. The Landscape of Abanindranath Tagore was done three years later and that of Nandalal Bose in the early-1930s. The scroll represented the totality of Santiniketan. The ceiling mural completed in 1940 has been blown up from a photograph of the original mural and is also on display. Benodebehari as an artist was hardly recognised to the extent he should have been. He is an artist who is still being discovered today.”
Part of the ceiling mural by Benodebehari Mukherjee
Benodebehari was a student of Santiniketan and the core values of the place made a profound impact on his mind. While Tagore believed that nature was the greatest teacher, Mukherjee put the principle to art. While Mukherjee himself learnt from Nandalal Bose, he was in turn a teacher of Satyajit Ray, which perhaps influenced the legend to depict nature and landscape so profoundly through his cinematic lens in later years.
Art connoisseurs browse through the collection
Jogen Chowdhury said: “This exhibition is a rare occurrence. The paintings were inspired by the Santiniketan landscape of the past. We are lucky to see that area through his artworks today.”
Historian Sugata Bose, who was present at the inauguration, drew everyone’s attention to the visual ability of Mukherjee. In his address, he mentioned, “Mukherjee tells us something about the power of visual imagination. In his last years, Mukherjee lost his sight, almost like Beethoven but continued to work until his last days.” He went on to discuss the influence of Japanese and Chinese artists on Mukherjee and how Kolkata was the centre of creativity for Asian art during the 20th century.
Two of the masterpieces by Benodebehari Mukherjee
Apart from the highlights of the show, the original hand scroll and ceiling mural, several other artworks by Mukherjee are on display. Each of them portrays the brilliance of landscape art and reflects on the techniques that made him a pioneer in his field.
His work titled, Khoai, Small Landscape Scroll, Presumed self-image of Benodebehari, detail from the handscroll Scene from Santiniketan and several others are on display. He used a variety of mediums including ink on cloth, ink on paper, fresco secco on wall, tempera on Nepalese paper and more for his artworks.
The exhibition is on till June 20. Entry is free and open to all except Mondays.