The Seagull Foundation for the Arts

Arts Research and Documentation
1997-1998

Grant Period: Over one year

Principal Investigator: Anjum Katyal

Nirode Mazumdar (1916-1982) stands at a significant juncture in the history of modern art in India as a leading practitioner of a generation of artists in revolt and who are yet to be understood in their entirety. This grant supports principal investigator for the project, Ms. Anjum Katyal, conduct preparatory research towards a travelling exhibition on the life and work of Mazumdar.

Mazumdar was one of the founder members of the Calcutta Group - a young breakaway band of artists who sought a new sensibility. Essentially urban artists, they were close witness to the famine of 1943 and the ravages it brought with it to the city, the years of war that immediately followed, the refugees that flooded in from Burma, the rationing and hardship.

While it is generally held that Mazumdar’s work and thought incorporate his earlier influences and learning in India, he also evolved an approach and style that straddled several seemingly contradictory strands - Indian and Western, traditional and modern, symbolic and abstract.

Mazumdar’s works, for various reasons, have remained inaccessible to the general public. The works are unknown outside Calcutta and have only been written about by a few critics and art historians. Moreover, there has been no opportunity to incorporate Mazumdar into the wider social and cultural history of which he was a part.

Research is expected to be facilitated by Mazumdar's own theoretical reflections - he recorded his thoughts meticulously in diaries, sketchbooks and notebooks, essays and other writings. In addition, Katyal and her team will study material related to Mazumdar’s artwork; conduct intensive interviews with those who knew him and his work, including family members, fellow artists, critics and connoisseurs; and catalogue his major works along with his preparatory sketches and notes.

The research is expected to culminate in a major travelling retrospective exhibition showcasing Mazumdar's oeuvre and career, accompanied by an in-depth catalogue intended to reintroduce the artist to his time. The Seagull Foundation for the Arts also expects some of Mazumdar’s material to lend itself to publication, and plan to make an audio-visual package with slides and commentary available to an arts-interested public at cost.