Chitrakar : The Artist Benodebehari Mukherjee

Translated by K. G. Subramanyan, Seagull Books, 2006, xviii, 196 p, ISBN : 8170462827, $31.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Chitrakar : The Artist Benodebehari Mukherjee/translated by K. G. Subramanyan

Contents: Foreword. Introduction. 1. The artist (chitrakar). 2. Preface to chitrakar. 3. The artist (chitrakar). 4. Master of the household (Kattamashai). 5. The creator (Kirtikar). 6. Art quest (Silpa Jignasa). Appendix. Glossary.

"When three of the four pieces by Benodebehari Mukherjee (1904-1980) that go into his book Chitrakar first appeared in a well-known Bengali literary journal, they took the reading public by storm. Everyone wanted to see them published together as a book. And when such a book did appear it was sold out in no time. Expressing his philosophy and approach to art and the work of the artist, it was praised by both critic and layman. It also received two important literary awards.

All these four pieces were written by Benodebehari after he lost his eyesight in the summer of 1957. From the time he started teaching in Kala Bhavan (in 1929) he was an important influence on the new generation of artists; and the paintings and murals he did between 1936 and 1957 assured his position as an important figure on the modern Indian art scene. In 1957 Benodebehari was just fifty-three and at the height of his powers. And he lived for another twenty-three years, during which he continued to work in a variety of materials. It was only in his final years that he devoted more time to writing and less to visual expression.

These four pieces of writing are broadly autobiographical. 'The artist' (chitrakar) is a selective reminiscence recapturing various pictures from the years of his childhood, apprenticeship and maturity, up to the time he became blind. 'Master of the household' (Kattamashai) is a candid and complex fictionalized account of his struggle to come to terms with his blindness and continue to be creative, and the identity and ego problems that came with it. 'The creator' (kirtikar) is a simple, though telling, parable on the vanity of inordinate ambition that snaps the connection between the ends and the roots. And 'Art Quest' (Silpa Jignasa) is an informal causerie that outlines his vision on art, its basic elements and their differences in range and reference." (jacket)

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