The Bronze Legacy

16 Mar

A solo exhibition celebrates the works of the late sculptor Pradosh Dasgupta at Akar Prakar Gallery

Pradosh Dasgupta, Hungry Family, ACI, 1967, Bronze

Georgina Maddox

A sculptor, a curator, a poet and an art critic, Prodosh Dasgupta, has clearly not been celebrated enough, until recently, and his achievements have perhaps slipped into oblivion from the younger generation of art viewers and collectors. That can be changed with a visit to Akar Prakar where an exhibition of 23 sculptures by the famed sculptor and former Director and Curator of NGMA are on display. Curated by art critic Uma Nair, the show traces a timeline that runs from 1947 to 1990. According to Nair, everyone ‘socially knows about’ Dasgupta the sculptor and curator of NGMA for 13 years in Delhi, but few are aware that he was a prolific writer, a critic of note and a thinker and poet. The show weaves his writings and his work.

“Dasgupta, was exposed to the art of the West, however, he came to India and found Indian subjects and translated modernity with his deep understanding of western grammar. Hence, you see influences of Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Auguste Rodin, but you also find that he brought his own Indian aesthetic to the works,” observes Nair.

Aristocrats, ACI, 1990, Bronze

For the uninitiated, Prodosh Dasgupta was born in Barakar, Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) in 1912. He graduated from Calcutta University before going to learn sculpture at the Government School of Art
and Craft, Chennai, and the Lucknow School of Arts and Crafts. He then further studied at the Royal Academy of Arts and LCC Central School, London, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.

Consequently, he had at his disposal, a variety styles and aesthetics to choose from. Naturally he wove his own approach out of all these influences and styles. As part of his process of creating the sculptures, he squeezed, twisted, rolled, pinched and flattened the clay. As a result, some of his figurative sculptures were realistic, and some were more abstract in nature.

“The 23  sculptures give us a glimpse of an intellectual who was an inquisitor of structural form, a thinker of verbal analogies, and an aesthete who translated the rhythms of the earth in idioms that explored the resonant code of contours and benchmarks to find an alchemy that celebrated and refracted the romantic pole of his sensibility,” Nair states.

Bride, ACI, 1990, Bronze

The show—connected through his writings and musings on his own sculptures—tells us that he took a passionate and unabashed delight in the physicality of the forms he created, as he exploited in bronze, its capacity for moodiness and melancholic beauty. Amongst the works we see his famous Bride, Surya Mukhi, Pounding Corn, Genesis, and Maternity among others.

One may note that the depiction of the Aristocrats captures their ponderous, solid and still forms, that stand in a stately posture at attention, while the piece titled Hungry Family, is filled with dynamism and softness that bespeaks their vulnerability, the male figure leaning on the seated woman and the child-like form trapped somewhere between them. Bride conveys the rotund fullness of a mother-goddess wrapped in an enormous garment which keeps her in Parda, while only a sliver of her soft female form peeps out from the folds.

Devil and Dame, 1947, Bronze

Amongst the sculptures are six drawings that belong to his preparatory studies for his sculptures.
 “Loose, lithe, looping lines tell us he took delight in drawing and his ruminations were rooted in the rhythms of the human figure, it is a masterclass in drawing to look at his drawings on newspaper as well as otherwise,” observes Nair. “The beauty of minimalist moorings creates a feminine mystique and help us understand that age old debate about the fine line between the naked and the nude. The subtle nature of his felicity for drawing makes us think about the journey that an artist takes from academic realism to modernism,” says Nair who has followed his work for nearly 30 years.

Pradosh Dasgupta’s sketch at Santiniketan, 1979

Dasgupta’s sculptures reflect at once, his interest in art history, his inherent perceptions, of the materiality and density of bronze  to examine the role of  everyday reality and the human narrative,  to create  contemporary moments that defined his evolution over a period of more than five decades she observes, having  re-discovered him in the 1990”s during various shows in the capital city of Delhi.

Pounding Corn, 1949, Bronze

During his youth Dasgupta was clearly more prolific. Upon his return to India in 1940, he set up his studio in Calcutta. He also founded the Calcutta Group with artists Rathin Mitra, Nirode Mazumdar, Paritosh Sen, Hemant Mishra and Gopal Ghose, which held its first exhibition in 1943. The group was founded to break away from the formal styles taught in Indian art institutions, and move towards a more global aesthetic.

Dasgupta served as Curator of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, from 1957 to 1970 where he helped acquire several works for the NGMA but India’s important sculptors. Dasgupta was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London, and participated in several exhibitions in India and internationally. In 2008, the NGMA hosted a major retrospective of his works since he had passed away in 1991. This exhibition at Akar Prakar comes 12 years later and should not be missed!

Akar Prakar presents Translating Modernity, the show runs till 28 march 2020

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