Born On: April 22, 1901
Born In: Dhubri, Assam, India
Died On: August 9, 2003
Career: Painter, Sculptor, Art Teacher
Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal, better known to us as B. C. Sanyal, is considered to have ushered in the era of modernism in Indian art. A painter, a sculptor and a teacher of art to three generations of artists, B. C. Sanyal lived through the different partitions that India went through in 1905, 1947 and 1971. This was also the time when art in India experienced several developments, Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal playing an important role in bringing about these developments. B. C. Sanyal was raised by his mother and he often referred to her as his mother as the chief inspiration in his life and career as an artist. He shifted base to Delhi from Assam after India's independence and remained in the Indian capital for the rest of his life.
Childhood and Education
Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal was born on April 22, 1901 in the town of Dhubri in Assam. Though he was only a little child, he did experience and also understood the sentiments attached with the Partition of Bengal in the year 1905. Soon after, tragedy struck the Sanyal family when his father died when B. C. Sanyal was only six years of age. His mother had to raise young Sanyal single handedly, which she did efficiently. In her leisure time, she used to give in to her hobby of making dolls which was from where the sculptor in him was born. Sanyal enrolled at the Government College of Art & Craft in Calcutta, where he took training under J P Ganguly and Percy Brown. At the age of 19 in the year 1920, Sanyal became a student of the Serampore College of Art and it was in this institution that he spent the next six years of his life, first learning painting and then becoming a teacher of painting and sculpture. It was B C Sanyal's personal distinct style of art which caught the attention of his peers and teachers.
B. C. Sanyal was a teacher of art and sculpture at the Serampore College of Art from 1920 to 1926. His career got a fresh start in the year 1929 when a Punjabi firm named Krishna Plaster Works appointed Sanyal in their team traveling to Lahore. He was given the task to mould a bust of India's hero in the freedom struggle Lala Lajpat Rai prior to the beginning of the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress. After his work with Krishna Plaster Works came to an end, Sanyal stayed back in Lahore and took up employment at the Mayo School of Arts in Lahore. After teaching art for a few years, he went on to become the vice principal of the Mayo School, a position that he held till 1936. Though he did not want to do it, Sanyal was forced to resign from the vice principal's post at Mayo School of Arts and leave the institution in the year 1936 when differences arose between him and British authorities who controlled the Mayo School.
Some of Sanyal's prominent students from Mayo School of Arts were Krishnen Khanna and Satish Gujral who went on to become prominent figures of the art world during the modernism of post independence art and sculpture. Though he left the institution, Sanyal did not leave Lahore immediately. Rather, he set up a studio which also functioned as a school within the premises of the Forman Christian College and named it the Lahore College of Art. A few years later, the premises of the Lahore College of Art was shifted to the famous Dayal Singh Mansions of the city, after Sanyal received positive response and a huge turnout of the most popular artistes when he organized an exhibition in the basement of the building. Sanyal remained as the teacher at the Lahore College of Art till India's independence in 1947, after which he permanently migrated to Delhi.
Career after India's Independence
After 1947, Sanyal left Lahore and settled with his wife Snelata in Delhi. His place of work, the 26 Gole Market area of Delhi soon became famous as the hub for established artists and students of art in the city. Sanyal set up the Delhi Shilpi Chakra in Gole Market in association with other friends from the world of art. The group was influential in bringing about a much needed change in the type of contemporary art produced from not only Delhi but also from several places across North India. From the year 1949, Sanyal participated in a number of programs across the world, from the Salon de Mai in Paris in 1949, to the Venice Biennale in 1953. He returned to India to join as the professor of art in Delhi Polytechnic the same year. After the completion of his term in Delhi Polytechnic, Sanyal joined the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) and became the secretary of the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) from 1960 to 1969. After 1969, Sanyal was appointed the vice chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi.
Sanyal loved watercolors and oil paintings and the better part of his works are in either of the two. 'The Veiled Figure', drawn in memory of his mother was a path-breaking success. Other important works by Sanyal were 'Way to Peace', The Flying Scarecrow', 'Despair' and 'Cow Herd'. He portrayed the lives of the underprivileged and the downtrodden of the society in his works of art. The simple human life and the struggles that mankind had to engage in for living were his most preferred themes in painting. The works of Sanyal is presently housed at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. Apart from painting and sculpture, Sanyal also acted in a film titled 'Dance of the Wind' in 1997. During the later stages of life, Sanyal traveled to Himachal Pradesh and settled there for a while in an attempt to set up the Andretta artists' resort and the Nora Center for the Arts in the resort. He was so involved in the project along with friend Norah Richards that he started exhibitions and sale of his own paintings to raise money for the purpose.
Awards and Recognition
Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal's genius was recognized by the Indian government which awarded him duly. The painter, sculptor and art teacher received a number of awards towards the later part of his career: