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A master’s stroke

Over 80 never-seen-before works by Jamini Roy are on display in the Capital

Pen and ink on paper by Jamini Roy.<br />
Pen and ink on paper by Jamini Roy.

Could there be a less-explored side to the rich oeuvre of Jamini Roy? The answer is on the high walls of India’s oldest gallery, Dhoomimal, which are adorned with a collection of over 40 never-seen-before drawings by the 20th century artist.

“Some of them are complete, some are unfinished, with irregular and incomplete strokes, but each one narrates the story of how much Roy loved drawing with the simple tools of pen and ink," says Uma Nair, who has curated Carved Contours, an exhibition of works by Roy that is showing at the Dhoomimal gallery till 10 March.

“He started out drawing with multiple strokes, and eventually moved to finishing a figure in mere six. The firm contours and sharp lines of figures (from women and mother-and-child to scenes of rural rituals) reflect his rich understanding and value for precision. That’s the genius of Roy," Nair adds.

It was during a chance meeting with Uma Jain, the gallery matriarch, that Nair learnt of the treasure trove. “Umaji had invited me to her house to discuss some work. Suddenly, there was talk about Roy and she opened this collection of drawings on small pieces of paper. They were in perfect shape. It was a goldmine; I was stunned," says Nair.

The exhibition, which is part of Dhoomimal’s 80th anniversary celebrations, also includes around 40 paintings of women, nayikas (heroines), Christ, scenes from the Ramayan, village dancers, rural life and domestic animals. All the works on display are owned by the gallery.

The female body appears in his paintings as well as drawings. “The almond-shaped eyes, the ample breasts, the body structure—Roy’s village women were always exquisite, never cheap," says Jain.

Referring to the Kalighat-style paintings that are synonymous with his signature work, Jain says: “Roy was a strong believer in roots and tradition. The Kalighat paintings (folk paintings sold outside Kolkata’s Kalighat temple) had a big influence on his work, which manifested in bold, sweeping brushstrokes on canvas."

Carved Contours is on till 10 March, 11am-7pm (Sundays closed), at Dhoomimal Gallery, G-42, Connaught Place, New Delhi, (41516056).

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