Jamini Roy was born on 11 April 1887 in Beliatore village of the Bankura district, West Bengal. He was born into a moderately prosperous family of land-owners.
In 1903, he joined the Government School of Art in Calcutta. His teacher trained him in the art of drawing, based largely on the academic traditions of Europe. This helped him become a good portraitist.
His teacher also taught him the prevailing academic tradition drawing like Classical nudes and painting in oils. In 1908 he received his Diploma in Fine Art.
Later, Jamini Roy began his career as a commissioned portrait painter. Somewhat abruptly in the early 1920s, he gave up commissioned portrait painting in an effort to discover his own.
Soon, he moved away from his earlier impressionist landscapes and portraits. He began his first period of experimentation with the Santhal dance as his starting point between 1921 and 1924.
However, he soon realised that he needed to draw inspiration, not from Western traditions, but from his own culture, and so he looked to the living folk and tribal art for inspiration.
Kalighat Painting Style
Jamini Roy was most influenced by the Kalighat Pat (Kalighat painting), which was a style of art with bold sweeping brush-strokes.
Soon, he started representing village scenes and people, images he was familiar with and close to because of his upbringing in a rural set up.
Though Jamini Roy liked painting images from the countryside, his technique was very different from those of the folk artist. He simplified the forms, used bold, flat colours and drew his themes from local folk paintings.
He replaced expensive canvas and oil paint with less expensive material, and used the medium of the folk artists. Jamini Roy is believed to have used only seven colours in his paintings: Indian red, yellow ochre, cadmium green, vermillion, grey, blue and white. These were mostly earthy or mineral colours.
Success and Later Life
In 1934, he received a Viceroy’s gold medal in an all India exhibition for one of his work. In 1954, Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan.
Soon, Jamini Roy’s paintings were put on exhibition for the first time in the British India Street of Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1938.
During the 1940s, his popularity touched new highs, with the Bengali middle class and the European community becoming his main clientele. In 1946, art gallery exhibited his work in London and in 1953, in the New York City.
People exhibited his work extensively in international exhibitions. Many private and public collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London has showcased his work.
Jamini Roy died on 24 April 1972 in Kolkata, where he had lived all his life.