Born On: 1941
Born In: Dhuri, Punjab
Died On: December 29, 2008
Manjit Bawa, known for his striking portrayal of spirituality and simplicity through his paintings, was a one of the highly-skilled artists India has had. Born in a small town of Dhuri, Punjab; it was tough-going for him to bring out his love for spirituality and nature onto the canvas, but thanks to his faith in the almighty and his elder brothers' faith in his abilities, who backed up his talent and supported him to pursue what he loved, Manjit not only realized his dreams but also made it big in the Indian world of painting. It was under Abani Sen that Manjit gained a distinct identity and sharpened his skills as a painter. Many of his works include depiction of spiritual figures and other figures in a non-cliched and subtle way that has set him apart from the rest. Drawing was his first love and he enjoyed doing it till the end.
Manjit Bawa was born in the year 1941 in a small town of Dhuri in Punjab. Being brought up on the mythological stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana, and the Puranas; poetry of a Punjabi poet Waris Shah, and readings from the Guru Granth Sahib; these became his source of inspiration. Also, being one with the nature from the early years was instrumental in making his zeal for painting all the more evident. Although his mother didn't approve of his interest on account of it not being a means to earn a livelihood, he made no qualms about it and believed that God would provide him with food and rest.
It was Manjit's elder brothers who backed him up and encouraged him to pursue his interest, and he ended up at School of Art, Delhi Polytechnic, New Delhi, and studied the finesse of arts from 1958 to 1963 under the guidance of his professors Somnath Hore, Rakesh Mehra, Dhanraj Bhagat, and B.C Sanyal. But it is to Abani Sen to whom Manjit gives credit - "But I gained an identity under Abani Sen. Sen would ask me to do 50 sketches every day, only to reject most of them. As a result I inculcated the habit of working continuously. He taught me to revere the figurative at a time when the entire scene was leaning in favor of the abstract. Without that initial training I could never have been able to distort forms and create the stylization you see in my work today."
Career & Works
Manjit never worked on demand but always followed his heart and mind, for he felt that everything has a time and place. He believed that by using the minimum essentials, he could extract the maximum effect out of his work. He was one of the few painters to break away from the use of grays and browns (a style made popular by the British) and opted for the exuberance of the natural colors like orange, blue, red, and green as he believed that bright colors are closer to the hearts of most Indians. He worked as a silk screen printer in Britain between 1964 and 1971, and also studied the art. After returning to India, when faced with the predicament of what to paint, as he couldn't settle for European style of painting; he decided to bring up his inspirations from the Indian mythology, poetry of Waris Shah, and readings from the holy book of Sikhs - Guru Granth Sahib; to canvas.
However, mythology and spiritual readings weren't the only source of his inspiration. Having visited most of the places and drawing their countryside onto the canvas; it was the simplicity of the colors and people from across the places, his interest for the flute that he learnt to play when he was young from the maestro Pannalal Ghosh himself, and being one with the nature at an early age that fascinated him to draw inspiration. It is precisely the reason why mythological figures, flute, and birds and animals kept appearing in many of his acclaimed paintings like Krishna and the Bull, Ranjha, Govardhan, After 84, Heer etc. Also, he never hesitated to use figures of Kali and Shiva in his canvases as he deemed them as "the icons of my country". Emerging from early criticisms, over the time, his paintings have attracted Indian as well international buyers.
Awards & Honors
2002: 'Meeting Manjit', film on Manjit Bawa directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, received the National Award for Best Documentary
1986: 1st Bharat Bhawan Biennale, Bhopal
1981: All India Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, Chandigarh
1980: National Award, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1963: Sailoz Prize, New Delhi
Being in a coma for almost 3 years, that resulted from a stroke in 2005; Manjit Bawa passed away on 29th December 2008 at his house in New Delhi. He is survived by his son, Ravi, and daughter, Bhawna.
1941: Manjit Bawa was born in Dhuri, Punjab.
1958: Started studying at School of Arts, Delhi Polytechnic in New Delhi.
1963: Completed his education.
1964: Went to Britain to study Silk Screen Printing and to work as a Silk Screen Printer.
1967: Finished the diploma in Silk Screen Printing from London School of Printing, Essex and started working as a silk screen printer.
2005: Slipped into coma after a stroke.
2008: Died at the age of 67.