Bikash Bhattacharjee, holder of two of the most prestigious awards: National Award and Padma Shri amongst many others, is a renowned Indian painter known for his spectacular depiction of reality as well as surrealism. Despite being born in Kolkata struck amidst a political turmoil and losing his father at an early age didn’t stop him from discovering his true calling. Supported by his mother, a lifelong friend in Katayun Saklat (his classmate), and Arun Basu (his college teacher), who sharpened his existing talent, Bikash brought out the very best in him. His remarkable quality of portraying real life objects onto the canvas with an immaculate exactness had the experts and audience stunned to their senses alike. Over the years, he even took up a role as a teacher and continued the same for more than a decade. His paintings reflected the life of average middle-class Bengali - their aspirations, superstitions, hypocrisy and corruption, and even the violence that is rife to Kolkata.
Bikash Bhattacharjee was born on 21st June, 1940 in North Calcutta, in a politically turbulent West Bengal. Having lost his father at the age of 6, it wasn’t exactly easy growing up with crumbling riches of his household and Hindu-Muslim riots that led to the partition of Bengal and eventually, to national independence. Having seen pretty much everything which children of this age aren’t ideally supposed to be seeing, agonizing sights of huge masses flooded over railway stations and even deaths during the post independence traumatic era, Bikash had developed a deep sense of insecurity and empathy for the underprivileged. One day as usual, strolling down the dark neighborhood lanes in search of something unknown, he came across a sit-and-draw competition and apparently became the first runner up in it. Encouraged by his mother, it quickly dawned on him where his future lied and in pursuit of it Bikash joined Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship in 1958 and completed it in 1963, with a diploma in fine arts. A year later, he became a member of the Society of Contemporary Artists.
Despite a teaching career of more than a decade: 4 years at Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship and 9 years at Government College of Art & Craft; it was Bikash’s surreal painting career that made him a name he is today. Coming face to face with harsh realities at an early childhood; he possessed an exceptional grasp over depicting objects and people the way they appeared in real life: a quality that remained his strong suit till the end. Bikash always thought of himself as an incurable optimist and the same could not keep itself from being manifested in the way he drew. In addition to this, inclusion of feminine beauty with a balance of spiritualism and sensuality in quite a lot of his work was evidence to his preoccupation to the same.
Bikash had tasted success early on during his painting career with the Doll series, followed by the Durga series. It was in the year 1965 that his solo exhibition was held at Kolkata. Along with the paintings depicting hyper-realism, he was also exceptional in portrait paintings and it’s visible in his paintings of other artists like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Samaresh Babu, and Indira Gandhi. He also created painted illustrations for a novel on the life of Ramkinker Baij. Indian recognition wasn’t all he got; as his works even gained an international audience when they were exhibited across the countries and cities like Paris, London, New York, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Hungary. It was his unrestrictive quality to work with an array of mediums like oil on canvas and board, tempera paint, pastels, water colors, crayons, and pencils and blending in realism with surrealism that gave him mastery over the art.
It was in 2000 that Bikash suffered a cerebral attack that left him paralyzed, unable to paint. On 18th December 2006, he passed away following a prolonged illness. He is survived by his wife Parbati, a son and a daughter.
Awards & Honors
Academy of Fine Arts Award, Calcutta (1962)
National Award, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (1971)
Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta, National Award, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (1972)
Banga Ratna (1987)
Padma Shri (1988)
Shiromani Purashkar (1989)
Nivedita Purashkar, Ramkrishna Vivekananda Ashram (1990)
Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship (2003)
1940: Bikash Bhattacharjee was born.
1963: Graduated from Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship.
1964: Became a member of the society of Contemporary Artists.
1965: His first solo exhibition was held at Kolkata.
1968-72: Taught at Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship.
1973-82: Taught at the Government College of Art and Craft.
2000: A cerebral attack had left him paralyzed.
2006: Died at the age of 66.