Benode (also Binod) Behari Mukherjee was an Indian artist mainly known for his mural paintings. He was also passionate about calligraphy and sculpturing. He is one of the four great Indian artists of all the time who are featured in Contextual Modernism. The exhibition was to display the Modern Indian arts on the occasion of India’s 50th Independence Day in 1997.
Brief Biography and Art Teaching Career
Benode Behari Mukherjee was born on 7th February, 1904 in Behala (Now a suburb of Kolkata), West Bengal. He was born with one myopic and one blind eye, but still continued to work for his passion. His schooling was held at a Bramcharya Ashram in West Bengal. At age of 15, he took the first step towards his dream by admitting in Kala Bhavan. He learnt painting under other two famous artists Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Baij. Soon after that in 1925, he joined them to teach at Kala Bhava Bijn. He was so inspirational that some of his students also grew up to be great artists. He left Kala Bhavan in 1949 and nine years later re-joined it as its principal.
Between those nine years, Benode travelled to Kathmandu to become a curator at National Museum of Kathmandu. In 1951, he came back to India and this time to Rajasthan to teach at Banasthali Vidyapith. After a year in 1952, he opened his own art school with his wife, in Mussoorie.
Work that came with Experience
Every artist has a different method of conveying their art and for Mukherjee it was through murals. He has been painting them since his college days. The first one was painted in his hostel dormitory which shook its audience with its beauty. It captured landscapes of the villages around the Santiniketan at that time. Kala Bhavan was so impressed with his paintings that they called him on board.
His style didn’t remain within the Indian culture only; he tried his hand at Eastern arts too. He picked up Japanese and Chinese calligraphy from the artists who came to India. He went to Japan to work with other pioneers of this subject and also to learn from them. The Indian side of his paintings was inspired from the various monuments built during olden Kings, especially Mughal and Rajput times.
Benode’s paintings spoke the harmony between Western, Eastern and Indian traditions. He excelled in all these styles and brought a beautiful modern art of modern India. He was known to mix various traditions and gave it an environmental and architectural essence. It is said that ‘A paintings can speak thousand words’, the artist’s work was worthy of thousand emotions. Though all of his work was appreciated but his mural painting from 1947 gained louder applauds. It was based on the medieval period saints.
Binod Behari Mukherjee suffered eye problems since he was born but it got severe in his later life. He started to develop cataract in his late forties which could have been due to his already delicate eyes. This followed a failed cataract surgery in 1952 and completely lost his sight. The venture for this artist never stopped due to this loss. Because one needs vision to succeed, not sight. His vision was to make place among the best artist of his country and that he clearly achieved it.
One person got immensely inspired by this that he dedicated a movie to Benode. He was none other than the famous director Satyajit Ray. He was a former student of Benode Behari Mukherjee. He made a movie ‘The Inner Eye’ in 1972 to honour the talents of his teacher who managed to be an artist despite being blind.
Benode Behari Mukherjee was a celebrated artist. He is one of the recipients of Padma Vibhushan, the second highest award of India. He was awarded with it in the year 1974. The University of Visva Bharathi honoured him for his excellent teaching skills with a Deshikottama in 1977. He also received a Rabindra Puraskar in 1980.
Quotes by Benode Behari Mukherjee
“The person who is not roused by a pulsating image, a small touch or sound, can make no sense of the word ‘beauty’. A person who neither knows, nor thinks beyond his worldly needs has no use for beauty.”
He also took interest in Literature which led him to write a book with the title ‘Chitrakar’. It was published in 1979; it is comprised of his Bengali writings with someone of his adorable drawings. The book also has some autobiographical touch which explains his battle with blindness and how he accepted it. The book shows his unhindered vision to excel at art.
An Artist never dies
Though Benode Behari Mukherjee’s unfortunate death happened in the year 1980 but the colours in his paintings will always shine like they did. He was a born inspirer and set an example for all of them who think that their disability isn’t the end of their world.
Written By: Rituparna Desai