Rediscovering Haripura Panels : Nandalal Bose

National Gallery of Modern Art


NGMA has a resplendent repository with 6800 works of art of Nandalal Bose as paintings, graphic prints, drawings and sketches.  Among these works we have the landmark suite of temperas popularly known as Haripura Posters painted in 1938 commissioned by Mahatama Gandhi to decorate the pandal for the Congress session at Haripura. 

Mahatma Gandhi had wanted something that would be accessible to the common people visiting the session. Elements of the language of the folk arts were skillfully used in defining form.

These bold paintings of common people like the tailer, the drummer, the gardener, the woman cooking and so on have achieved an outstanding stature in the history of modern Indian art.

The NGMA had mounted this exhibition of Haripura Panels for a new generation of art lovers and for a generation who would pleasurably recollect these images, to observe and appreciate this brilliant set of paintings that had been a signpost in the trajectory of Modern Indian art.

 Nandalal  visited  Vithalnagar, a small settlement near Haripura in Gujarat, India and spent many weeks observing local life and village culture, sketching fervently.

In these sketches the artist renders, in subtle yet meticulous line drawings, serene landscapes, bullock carts and the local women of the village, busy in their daily chores.

"For him art was not an elitist activity catering to the dilettante taste of aristocratic patrons. Art was a principle that informed all types of creative activity and it was related to social need."
- Jaya Appasamy

"Nandalal thought of himself as a worker who had a certain responsibility to fulfil. His dharama was to create works that added to and enriched culture, a culture that was not for the few but for the many."
- Jaya Appasamy

"He visited the locale and studied the ethos of the place. He came up with a style that was imaginative, inspired, fluid and spontaneous."
- Jaya Appasamy

He devised an imagery that would communicate itself to the ordinary village folk. Elements of the language of the folk arts were skillfully used in defining form.

"The Mahatma called him to decorate the Haripura Congress pavilion (1938) . He did this with four hundred painted wall-insets (generally referred to as ‘posters’) of which about a hundred he did in his own hand and left the rest to be copied from these by associates."
- K.G Subramanyan

"These were painted on paper, stretched on cheap straw- board, portraying different aspects of Indian life, in an astonishing breezy style like the traditional ‘patas’ but the images and the treatment ere unmistakably Nandalal’s." - K.G Subramanyan

"He considered art as more of a vocation (to answer an inner calling) than a mere profession."
- K.G Subramanyan

In his works, the search for a utopia is informed and directed by a deep consciousness of his immediate environment and surroundings.

"While Nandalal had a great respect for the Indian tradition, he was not a mere copyist as has often been supposed. The past to him was a source of principles and ideas; it had an artistic grammar, that was a discipline for hand and eye."
- Jaya Appasamy

"The past was valid in the present only when the artist could truly inherit its riches by understanding its artistic meaning. It yielded the secrets of thousands of artists who mere our forbears, whose thought has formulated our thought, whose sense of beauty we inherit as a racial memory." - Jaya Appasamy

"In spiritual sadhana or discipline the search is for the Unity of creation at the heart of diversity, it is to find the One by knowing which you know the all. In a similar manner art too moves towards its own vision of unity."
- Nandalal Bose

"The past cannot be re-created since the conditions of its history that determined it no longer exist. But like the legacy of our philosophy and music, poetry and drama it is a perennial source of nourishment."
- Jaya Appasamy

"He did not lower himself to the collective consciousness but raised that consciousness to a higher level refining it with taste, order and style."
- Jaya Appasamy

As a model he chose the village structures and huts. He made gates and welcome arches, decorative pandals all out of local materials where the painted panels were distributed- making a rural setting which merges with the landscape and the village scene and yet stood – out grand and lofty.

"His themes are imaginative figures, stylized and imbued with his love for decorative form."
- K.G. Subramanyan

"Rhythm was emphasized by the reiteration of lines by curvilinear movements, attenuation, repetition and dots. He did not favour geometrical design or arabesques but preferred the lyrical movements which are characteristic of Bengal."
- Jaya Appasamy

"...he grasps the ethos of Bengal countryside and its human drama with a graphic immediacy born of a sound understanding of Far Eastern brush techniques."
- K.G. Subramanyam

After preliminary interests with the medium of earth paints and folk style painting during his school days in 1908- 1909, Nandalal Bose once again displayed his genius in the same format for realizing the Haripura posters.

This was also a reflecting trend for the artist, who had by now moved away from the wash technique, mainly portraying the mythological subjects. He enthusiastically toured the villages around Haripura to study the life of common people engaged in diverse conduct.  
 "They have a strong impact with bold and free brush work, gay and bright colors-as paintings meant for villagers portraying village life, scenes from everyday life to which people could respond easily." - Sankho Chaudhuri 

It was through drawing that he expressed himself and created a personal idiom. His style is easily recognized by its linear fluency, plasticity and strength.

"With these, almost every Indian came to know him. Gandhi openly said that here was a man who could make art out of anything. After giving him the credit for such wizardry he made him from that day his mentor on all matters relating to art or design."   - K.G. Subramanyam

"The gestures and bodily movements are those seen in our ancient art as much a sin the stance and gait of contemporary people. Nandalal’s achievement was to grasp the essence of form with a minimum of means."
-Jaya Appasamy

“...the plasticity of this art harmonizes with its simultaneous graphic and linear quality... the lines are like those that define Indian sculpture. They are taut and have a tensile strength, though executed with the brush. They are informed with style."  Jaya Appasamy

"...his works are not mere imitations of form, they are intellectually ordered, controlled by the logic of pictorial necessity and function."
- Jaya Appasamy

"His research and enquiry into animal, plant and bird forms show both analysis and synthesis, a perception of the relationships of parts and their proportions."
- Jaya Appasamy

"The shapes of natural objects were memorized and reduced to design elements that appeared and reappeared in his works. Nature was for him an inexhaustible treasure house of forms."
- Jaya Appasamy

Nandalal’s artistic merit comprises a critical appreciation of tradition conveyed with great felicity and intense beauty. His works stand in testimony to the live, alive, and lived experiences of Indian society.

Nandalal Bose, popularly known as the Master Moshai, was born on December 3rd, 1882 in Kharagpur, Monghyr District, Bihar. A disciple of Abanindranath Tagore, he graduated from Government School of Art, Calcutta in 1910.

Nandalal was fascinated by the potential of folk art and indigenous modes of expression and inculcated them in his works although stylising them in a unique representation for depiction and narration of local life.

His explorative temperament with artistic materials allowed him to create a vast body of work. Nandalal Bose's art conjures newness unbound, yet it is flushed with the memories of yesterday.

Inspired by Far Eastern sensibilities that celebrate the traditional, the genius of his art lies in the interplay of sensual silhouettes and his powerful rendering of contemporary themes with the traditions, customs and sensibilities of Indian heritage.

It is this intermingling that invigorates his works and captures the minds of his viewers. He began his artistic career in the fervour of the Swadeshi movement, rejecting western colonial norms of art and taking inspiration from the ancient murals of Ajanta and Bagh caves as well as Mughal miniatures.

His works reflect the changing landscape, portraying people and places at a time when modern India's cultural development was at its threshold. Nandalal Bose died on April 16th, 1966 in Santiniketan, West Bengal. He won several accolades including the Padma Vibhushan by the President of India in 1953.

National Gallery of Modern Art
Credits: Story

-The exhibition "Rediscovering Haripura Panels: Nandalal Bose" was showcased at the NGMA Delhi. The exhibition was opened for public viewing on 30th June 2016, it is currently still on view.

-Exhibition narrated by National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi.


-Jaya Appasamy, "Nandalal- Master Draughtsman: Jaya Appasamy" in Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) Cenetary Exhibiton.(New Delhi National Gallery of Modern Art,1983)

-K.G. Subramanyam, "Nandalal Bose: A Biographical Sketch" in Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) Cenetary Exhibiton.(New Delhi National Gallery of Modern Art,1983)

-Sankho Chaudhuri "Haripura Posters: Sankho Chaudhuri"in Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) Cenetary Exhibiton.(New Delhi National Gallery of Modern Art,1983)

- Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, Rhythms of India: The Art of Nandalal Bose.(San Diego Museum of Art,2008)

Credits: All media
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