Jamini Roy, born in 1887 in a village in the Bankura district of West Bengal, has a name that evokes images of bright, rich colours, large symbolic eyes, bold, flowing, curved lines and a sense of the theatrical. An artist who was one of the fathers of the Indian contemporary art movement.
Roy moved to Calcutta in 1903 and joined the Government School of Art, a school in those days was highly dominated with the influence of the Tagores as well as the current Western styles. Although early works of Jamini Roy do show signs of these influences, his attraction to the Tagore styles was minimal.
This yearning and denial of the European styles was perhaps the turning point in Jamini Roy’s career as well as a key moment in Indian Modern Art. Seeking a visual vocabulary of his own, Jamini Roy moved away from traditional academic art and turned towards his roots. Initially he drew a lot of inspiration from Kalighat Pat paintings as well as terracotta work on temple walls of Bengal especially Bishnupur temple. He also showed his fascination for the paintings of peasant painters of Bengal who used to sell their work at the rural bazaars.
From this, evolved the Jamini Roy the world knows so well. The lines became bolder and simpler, the colours rich and the images lyrical. Over time, Roy moved away from canvas and started using different types of fabric, cloth, wood, mats, etc. and started using colours and pigments made from vegetables. The art of Jamini Roy was a milestone in contemporary Indian Art. Not only did it break away from the notion that art was the sole preserve of the upper classes and had to necessarily follow European styles but it also brought to fore the folk art language. Introduction of bold yet simple and minimal use of lines also brought in the new wave of reducing images to the bare essentials and yet tell the story emphatically.
Jamini Roy – categorized differently by different people – from folk artist to contemporary to rebel artist – was unique in himself and was one of the prime movers of the contemporary art movement in India, passed away in 1972 in Calcutta.