A portrait of the muse
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Those eyes wide with wonder, the flowing locks draped over her shoulder and hands thrust out on either side. To the casual viewer it's just another portrait of a lady, to fans of Ramkinkar Baij, it's an immortal ode to a royal muse in the acclaimed artist's life. Maharaj Kumari Binodini was to Ramkinkar Baij, in a sense, as important to his life as Beatrice was to Dante or Laura to Petrarch. Like a muse in the purest aspect, Binodini brought forth a distinct sensuality and passion in Baij's work. A self-taught artist with no formal education, Baij hailed from a remote village in West Bengal. Santiniketan moulded him into a sophisticated artist, its environment adding fodder to his creative genius. Unlike the bhadraloks of his milieu, he did not cut a gentlemanly figure in his bush shirt and Chinese straw hat. He remained a "son of the soil" and like his works, captured the "life rhythm". His life also continued to imbibe this very quality.
The National Gallery of Modern Art, which can rightly boast the largest collection of Ramkinkar Baij's works, has been hosting a retrospective exhibition of this artist who is fondly remembered to be the foremost figure of modern Indian sculpture. First held in Delhi in the month of February, the exhibition has now moved to the NGMA in Bangalore. It will remain there till September 23 and then travel to Mumbai. Occupying a significant space in this enormous and varied oeuvre of Baij's collection are his works of the princess from Manipur. NGMA has also managed to create the mood through some historical photographs of that period. They created that genre, to show us what went behind it.
Says professor Rajeev Lochan, the director of NGMA, "Ramkinkar Baij was wrongly portrayed as a bohemian most of the time when he was just a man ahead of his times. He created something out of nothing. His work pulsates with life and passion, and this can be done only by someone who has experienced it, felt it. His works have a sensuous quality about them and this comes out in his works on Binodini. Sensuality, not in the physical sense, but of a different kind."
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