New Delhi : In a tribute to legendary sculptor Prodosh Dasgupta, an art gallery in the national capital is presenting a retrospective of his life’s work – showcasing 50 sculptures in metal casts and bronze and 30 newsprint drawings.
The contribution of the 96-year-old Dasgupta to Indian art is solid figurative forms in metal casts and bronze – that are essentially Indian in ethos but western in shape.
His work spanning over 50 years – from the early 40s to the mid 90s – was put on display at the Kumar Gallery, one of the oldest art houses in the capital, Saturday and will remain open to the public till Nov 15. The entire body of work has been sourced from the Kumars’ private collection.
The sculptor, often dubbed as India’s Henry Moore, is the father of leading fashion photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta.
Prodosh Dasgupta was also the founder of the Calcutta Group of Progressive Artists in 1943, along with artists like Rathin Mitra, Prankrishnan Pal, Sunil Madhav Sen, Nirode Mazumdar, Paritosh Sen, Hemant Mishra and Gopal Ghose.
He was also the director of the National Gallery of Modern Art in the capital for nearly two decades from 1958-59 and is credited with acquiring some of the best works by M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar and A. Ramachandran.
Dasgupta, born in Bangladesh in 1912, trained in Paris and London before World War II, when the tradition of sculpture in Europe was just taking off with a burst of innovative ideas and experiments.
Dasgupta was influenced by the European masters but developed his own style. It was characterised by smoothness and fluidity of lines that typified the West, and elliptical egg-shaped figurative forms that his mentors like Moore, Constantin Brancuzi, Auguste Rodin and Jean Arp evolved to delicate heights.
Dasgupta’s figures of dancing girls, mother and child, and sun worshippers are faintly Rubenesque in the tradition of the Rennaissance artists. And yet, they are full of the Oriental lyricism found in the temple sculptures across the country and in the Bengal School of Art.
“In Dasgupta’s sculptures, space, volume and mass take precedence over everything else. And aesthetics is the underlining principle. But at the same time, he imbues his forms with concepts from Indian philosophy,” Virender Kumar Jain, co-founder of the Kumar Gallery, told IANS.
His drawings, Jain explained, should not be treated as just etchings on newsprint – printed pages of old editions of The Statesman, sepia with age.
“They are three-dimensional thematic bases around which his sculptures revolved. They are collages in newsprint which have now become standalone art by themselves,” Jain said.
The recurring shape in Dasgupta’s sculptures is the egg, which according to the artist is the story of Genesis – the source of creation.
Almost all his figurative sculptures are egg or oval shaped – be it the human torso, a woman’s anatomy or the surreal forms of the man, woman and the child. Sometimes, it is just the egg itself, slightly distorted to project a new image.
The sculpture “Egg Bride”, for instance, resembles a corpulent young woman with a pendulous oval torso and a narrow face, seemingly in tears.
In his drawings too, the female forms are oval and heavy. A group of golden sun-worshippers in glittering bronze look like a bunch of standing eggs, reaching heavenward.
“The eggs take off on Brancuzi’s egg-shaped sculptures. Sometimes, Dasgupta’s eggs represent a crying face. The egg symbolises the process of creation – the embryo which gradually evolves into a cry (of a newborn). He saw the world reduced to simple elliptical lines,” art critic and historian Aruna Bhowmick told IANS.
A comprehensive book on the sculptor’s works was also released Saturday as part of the retrospective.