Ramkinkar Baij came from a rural background to study art under Nandalal Bose at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan. Ramkinkar was discovered to have an innate genius for form and for experimenting with visual language. A wonderful portraitist, Ramkinkar did not paint or sculpt portraits as commissions, but because he was attracted to something in the subjet’s inner self. Similarly, his formal experiments were quite radical just as his use of new material quite daring and challenging.
‘Binodini’ is a remarkable portrait done with oil on gunny cloth. It shows a beautiful young girl who seems to be caught in a dilemma. Binodini, belonged to an aristocratic family of Manipur in northeast India. She came to study art at Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan and a close relationship sprang up between Ramkinkar and Binodini. In a typical instance of an artist’s obsession with his model, Ramkinkar painted many images of Binodini and sculpted her head. This seated portrait is one of the most outstanding works of Ramkinkar in the NGMA collection. The artist has been able to capture some inner conflicts that the subject is experiencing.
Using gunny cloth, a more inexpensive alternative to canvas, Ramkinkar has lathered thick layers of paint to give the portrait a tactile quality. There is a sense of volume in the depiction of the slim figure and the artist has caught her expression with great tenderness.