Hemendranath Mazumdar

India


Born in 1894, in what is now Bangladesh, Hemendranath Mazumdar was a painter of exceptional talent. Although he was praised for his fine treatment of pastels, watercolors and chalks, his real skill lay in the way he handled the oil medium. Women of his native (erstwhile) Bengal, most bathing or draped in wet saris are considered Mazumdar`s classical trademark. A renowned and thriving painter of the European academic style in the Kolkata of 1920s, Hemendranath was a close associate of Abanindranath Tagore but was never won over by the ideals of the Neo-Bengal School that the Tagores founded.

After studying for a while in the Government School of Art in Kolkata, Mazumdar and other students, became disgruntled with the British Principal`s program to Indianize art. Things became more than bearable, when, in 1911, the King of England toured India and the students of the School of Art were asked by Principal Havell to design, build and decorate a celebratory gate as a loyal welcome to the arriving monarch.

Taking inspiration from this incident, many academic artists, such as Hemendranath, Bhabani Charan Laha and Atul Bose joined the Ranadaprasad Gupta`s Jubilee Art Academy, which was founded in 1897, in a break away gesture. This taking control of events and defying authority made Mazumdar aware of the necessity to follow one`s own instincts rather than sticking to a particular movement or group. He became one of the few Indian artists of the early twentieth century who enjoyed both monetary success and critical appreciation. In 1921, he won the gold medal for his painting `Reminiscence` at an exhibition in Mumbai. In the same year another of his paintings was awarded the first prize by the Society of Fine Arts in Kolkata.

In 1929, he founded the `Indian Academy of Art` at his own residence in Kolkata. Renowned artists like Bhabani Charan Laha, Jogesh Chandra Seal, Jamini Roy and Atul Bose were actively involved in the Academy`s activities. The academy`s first tri-monthly journal was published in 1920, introducing upcoming artists and printing reproductions of their work in full colour. The journal also published serious essays on contemporary art by various artists. He also published picture-album called `Indian Masters,` in which the paintings of almost all the important artists selected from all over the subcontinent were reproduced.

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