(b. 1918 – 2008, India)
One of India’s most sought-after artists today, Paritosh Sen has come a long way since his days as one of the founding members of the Calcutta Group (1943-53). The group was made up of a sizeable gathering of young, avant-garde artists determined to break with the past, in order to explore the experimental processes that have led to some of the modern styles in the west. The collective was a pioneer in introducing modernism into Indian art. Following the ideals of the group, Paritosh was determined to produce art which took into account contemporary values, something which the orthodox schools fail to do. The Calcutta Group sought greater interaction with modern European art, as well as room for socio-political comment.
Both caricatures and the asutere are integral in Paritosh Sen’s work. Sen explains his usage of them in a quote, “Life is full of tears and laughter, joys and sorrows, both are one, like two parallel streams in my work. Caricature and the serious, there is no contradiction. I have always had them in my work; it is my nature… two sides of the same coin. Love and hatred.”
The famine encroaching India during the beginnings of World War II was one of the main catalysts for the formation of the Calcutta group. The Bengal School was inadequate at meeting the needs of the time. This led to Sen’s interest and understanding of Picasso and Braque and the important of form in art. The famine was also a significant forerunner to the Indian independence movement. Paritosh, being one of the avant-garde artists of that period, incorporated this social commentary into the doctrine of his works.
In 1949, Sen went to Paris. Here, he was confronted with a world which overwhelmed him a fantastic exposure to modern art, something he had never experienced before. In Paris, he studied at Andre Lhote’s school, Academie Grand Chaumier, Ecole des Beaux Arts and Ecole des Louvre where he studied the history of painting. The sojourn abroad provided an exciting exposure. A meeting with Picasso left a deep impression on him. During his time in Europe, Paritosh Sen was the recipient of the French Fellowship for Designing and Typeface. In 1970, he went on to receive a Rockerfeller Fellowship.
Paritosh Sen’s more recognizable works are his caricatures, which reflect strong underlying socio-political shades, and his female nude drawings. His style of representation is influenced by his exposure to Western Modern art, and has traces of cubism. He uses two dimensional, structured planes but still creates an illusion of voluptuousness.