Back Virtual Tour | Life and Works of Sailoz Mookherjea
Ngma-04572 | Portrait of Late Sailoz Mukherjee | 35 x 37.5 cms Oil on Canvas by Biren De
Tribute to one of the Great Master Sailoz Mookherjea on his 114th Birth Anniversary
An artist, to my mind, needs no introduction. No amount of writing can introduce him better than his own work. Not even Ananda Coomaraswamy rhetoric, for instance, can add to what the rhythm of the Nataraj bronze has to say. But still, “ The lord made critics as well artists” as Coomaraswamy himself tells us, “and they feel bound to get justice done for the works that have touched them most : this necessity which they feel may be the means of creating beauty in their own work”. (letter to Sir William Rothensteine, December29, 1914 )
Sailoz Mookherjea is the most distinguished of the second generation of the Indian painters. The Studio has aptly described him as ‘one of India’s most mature painters’.
He was born in 1907 in a gifted family of Calcutta. After spending his boyhood in Burdwan, the then Bengal, he had his early general studies and later got his art education at The Government School of Art, Calcutta. Worked for Imperial Tobacco Company for a period and then he held his first one-man show in Calcutta in 1937. Soon he left for Europe with a view to acquainting himself with the latest developments in the art world. During the travel he met Matisse, attended Cezanne’s Centenary celebration (Paris), visited the exhibitions of Cezanne and Van Gogh (Paris), Rembrandt (Amsterdam), Tintoretto (Venice) and Franz Hals (Haarlem), besides visiting several other museums and galleries. He had also visited Egypt, Sikkim and Tibet. He held his second one-man show in Calcutta in the late thirties.
The verve and vitality running through his works soon evoked tremendous enthusiasm among eminent artist like Abanindranath Tagore, Ju Peon and Ye Chien Wu – the last had drawn a sketch of him which he treasured even to his last day. In May, 1951, he had exhibited “Confession” (Plate 31) and “Wind” (Plate 32) at the famous Paris exhibition, Salon De Mai in which about three hundred artists from twenty-one countries including masters like Picasso, Rouault and Leger participated.
Sailoz moved to Delhi in 1945, and his first solo exhibition in Delhi was held in the same year, 1945, at New Delhi Town Hall.
He was faculty of art at the Sarada Ukil School of Art, New Delhi. Later he joined Art Department of Delhi Polytechnic where he remain attached till his demise on October 5th 1960.
A painter who’s creativity spanned the transition from the past to the present. His works worked and working till date as a bridge, a connecting link and a mediator, uniting in the process the old and the new. Sailoz Mookherjea had many characteristics associated with the Bengal School and the nineteenth century romanticism. His paintings have firstly, a clear subject, generally the kind of subject which was considered “Artistic”. Though based on elements of the real world – his pictures were in essence visionary. Sailoz was considered very modern. His contemporaneity can be observed in his free and spontaneous handling of media. His “Figures” are not merely Figures but patches of Pigment; garments, hair, trees are liberated colors. His thin brush swept across spaces and whipped up shapes with an Art Nouveau exuberance. He preferred suggestion to statement and his details were only the right amount of decoration. This attitude towards paint and brush was considered very modern, uninhibited, enthusiastic, restless and momentary.
The style of Sailoz Mookherjea was a natural reflection of his personality. He was a short active man with curious mind and a keen observer as well. He had studied art carefully and never lost a chance to learn from the ancient works.
His main medium of work was oil painting. His creations on Folk Art are chiefly finished color with black lines, showing he wasn’t too interested in forms as in flat colored Shapes. His brush lines doesn’t repeat the originals but preferred to be vivacious and decorative.
Another form he did play with was Ink Sketches which were lively as well as Calligraphic in nature, creating patterns all over. He didn’t dwell on a motif, rather the environment itself was his subject.
Another kind of sketch Sailoz practiced was Tonal. Here the artist had used sharp edged instruments like pencil to build up areas of varying light and dark tone.
Artist was one of the Indian painter who used oil color with understanding, confidence and even virtuosity. His colors are very thin, lucid and luminous. Oil compositions are his major creations. In his treatment of landscape he did create spaces organically by the movement of color than by any clearly indicated recession.
Figures in his compositions are most often not large but participated in a ‘Scene’ with architecture and landscape. There’s no modeling – the brush drawing is a flow and makes colored silhouettes rather than building a certain form. The surface finished with decoration or with sharp white and black lines.
Sailoz Mookherjea , one might say, had a certain art nouveau aim , his art was for art’s sake. His oeuvre may be divided into three major periods.
The earliest paintings are comparatively simple and open, clearly stated and have a plain motif.
The second period (1949-59) includes mature creations which were confident, spontaneous and - consolidating his style further.
In the last phase, Sailoz developed a more extreme style using and accentuating rapidity of manner, and uninhibited brushwork. Virtually abandoning the subject where colors intermingle without boundaries and scribble on the surface of the picture with the blunt end of the brush, resulting in creation of a kind of action painting.
Sailoz Mookherjeais one of the great artist of India without question. It is pity that he has not had a fair assessment in his own country. ‘He is great for many a reasons. He is great, for instance, because he is sincere. He is great, because he is master of his techniques. He is great, because he is intensely aware of a sense of tradition as well as freedom. He is great, because he understands the full significance of modern movement which has been in progress since the latter half of 19th century. But let us remember – when he paints, what he attempts to do is not to demonstrate an abstract theory but to present his own country and his own people as he sees them. The India that emerges in his hands is as intimately Indian as the India we love, whatever be the forms to which he may reduce her’.
Sailoz has to be considered one of the major figures in modern Indian art. A creator with the soul of a pilgrim, hand of an artist and eye of a poet.
Artworks of Sailoz Mukherjea’s are among the prized collections of National Gallery of Modern Art and are being exhibited in this Virtual Exhibition from our own repository to pay homage to the Master.
Shri Adwaita Garanayak,
Team JATAN, NGMA New Delhi
Concept, Design & Development
IT Cell, NGMA
S S Paul, Information Systems Manager,
Aniruddha Mukherjee, Systems Analyst
Yogesh Vats, Systems Analyst
IT Cell, NGMA
Sailoz Introduction By A.S.Raman.