Et Tu, Jamini?

Gaurav Jain is stopped short by the master’s apprentice work.

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THE CHITRAKOOT Art Gallery in Kolkata presented a piquant show last week called Jamini Roy: A Painter’s Journey. The gallery exhibited work from Roy’s early apprentice years of the 1920s — before he settled on his trademark sloeeyed figures. After art college, Roy did various odd jobs in places like a printing press, theatres, a cloth shop and a Jewish greeting card dealer. As he struggled with poverty, the fledgling young artist painted landscapes and portraits in the then-trendy Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles. You’ve seen the master’s Kalighat pata-influenced icons, but who knew our foremost folk and tribal modernist was first enraptured by Van Gogh and Monet? It shocks the system to behold how before the bold, sharp lines, there were the usual soft, dulcet dabs.

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