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  • Mar 19, 2013

Ganesh Pyne, Indian Artist, Dies at 76

Courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

On March 12, India’s artistic community mourned the loss of one of its most eminent painters—Ganesh Pyne (1937–2013) who died in Kolkata from a heart attack at the age of 76. Pyne maintained a low profile, but was widely acclaimed for works that drew on his fantastical imagination yet also reflected darker undercurrents in Indian society.

Pyne graduated from the Government College of Art & Craft in Kolkata in 1959, and was considered a major advocate of the Bengal School of Art, a movement associated with Indian nationalism in the early 20th century and now seen as a significant forerunner of modern Indian painting. Having begun his career working in watercolor, he found his ultimate expression in gouache and tempera.

According to Pyne, the endless mystical schemes seen in his works were inspired by the literature he read as a child: “These pastimes grew into a playhouse where imagination and reality co-existed.”

His devotees bestowed a number of fond nicknames upon the artist, including the “painter of darkness,” which referenced the morbid strain in his work, including the frequent appearance of motifs such as boats, bones and other memento mori. Pyne, who lived through the communal riots of 1946 in Kolkata, felt his experiences of horror and alienation were most effectively conveyed through the surreal, preferring a visceral form of truthtelling.

Pyne’s popularity increased steadily throughout his career, but he remained steadfast in his ideals: “Artists of our generation painted for the love of art. I feel one should have an unwavering affair with one's creativity. Otherwise, you are swept away by the tide.”

An exhibition of Ganesh Pyne’s works is being held at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, in his honor from March 13 to March 30.

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