Asit Kumar Haldar in London and Lucknow

Long letter written by Asit Halder to Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar, from 52 Cranley Gardens, South Kensington, London SW 7, dated 3 July 1923


Asit Haldar had travelled to London by ship with Dr. Pearson and Nagendranath Ganguly. In this letter, he expresses in several ways his sense of hurt and feeling of rejection by Nandalal Bose and the artist community of Santiniketan, which had not kept in touch with him. Through the references of Abanindranath Tagore [whom he calls Abanibabu], he mentions being appointed to the position of Principal of the Jaipur school of Art for a salary of Rs 330, for which he was extremely thankful, and then moving in February 1925 to his position as Principal of the School of Art in Lucknow.

He underlines the importance of this secure job at a time when he felt that there was no longer any place for him in Santiniketan. But he also talks about how all the office work leaves him with little time for his own art practice. In London, when we met E.B.Havell, Havell told him something that he felt was absolutely true – “When I met him in London, he told me that your chances of becoming a Principal is very good, but in the process India will lose an artist. Right now, who knows whether India is losing an artist, but that I am having to forfeit my art, about that there is no doubt.”

The letter also mentions a particular set of his works, although it is not clear whether they were done during his time in London – (i) two paintings that he had sent to Rabindranath [whom he calls ‘Rabidada’] for his birthday, one of “Parvati’s Tapasya (Penanace)”, and the other, a large composition, on Raja Harshavardhana and his wife Rajyashree being initiated to Buddhism; and (ii) a wooden Ajanta Pavilion that he had made for an exhibition, using the architectural form of a verandah that appears in a scene of a royal durbar in a panel of Ajanta, and creating a room within it filled with paintings. This structure attracted the praise of the Bengal Governor in one of his public lectures, which was reported in the press.

Abstract of the Prospectus of the Government School of Art and Crafts, Lucknow, dated 1st October, 1925, carrying Asit Haldar’s name as Principal of the School.