Postcards from Nandalal’s Contemporaries

1. Abanindranath Tagore to Nandalal Bose, 21 January 1917

2. Asit Kumar Haldar to Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar, Simla, 24 September 1918

3. Jamini Roy, Calcutta, undated

This final section follows the art of the postcard as a kindred practice of sketching and letter writing among a few of Nandalal Bose’s fellow-artists and contemporaries, during the 1920s and 30s. Most special here are some postcards sent to and painted by Abanindranath Tagore, where the images meander from an ethereal riverscape to a bold sketch of a Buddhist site and onto his world of caricature and humour.

A postcard of a Fra Angelico painting of the Annunciation that Stella Kramrisch writes in 1922 to Abanindranath Tagore in Jorasanko signposts the time of this young art historian’s arrival and stay in Santiniketan before she moves to Calcutta University – a moment that marks the beginnings of a new phase of Indian art historical scholarship, pedagogy and art collecting. Asit Kumar Haldar, through his close association with Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar, emerges as an another important postcard writer within this artistic fraternity, sharing detailed notes from Calcutta and Bagh, sharing his personal disappointments, aspirations and career moves and news about his work from South Kensington, London in 1923, and later the entire prospectus of the Government School of Art and Crafts, Lucknow, where he became the Principal in 1925.

To throw into this lot a characteristic sketch by Jamini Roy on an upside-down postcard is to think about this famous contemporary of Nandalal Bose, and of much that he shares aesthetically with the artists of Santiniketan, although ideologically and professionally, their two worlds of art practices remained firmly set apart. To bring Jamini Roy into this assemblage is to return to the never-resolved questions of such commonalities and separations and the need for retrospective dialogues.