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Artist Profile2
A doyen of India’s modern art movement
Socially sensitive artist Somnath Hore often expressed deep concern over inhumanity and oppression, especially injustice done to the underprivileged and violation of human values. He through his art opposed communalism, caste-based division of Indian society and lack of human dignity.

The vivacious visual appeal of his practice was further enhanced by the rough surfaces, holes, slits, and exposed channels. Perhaps the most powerful and poignant statement made by the socially sensitive practitioner was ‘Wounds’, his critically acclaimed pulp print series. It was cataclysmic phase of the 1940’s onwards, the 1943 Bengal Famine in particular, which went on to shape his consciousness and vision as an artist. From 1974, he started working on bronze sculptures, also exuding the anguished human form, a trademark of his fascinating figuration.

Born in 1921in Baroma of Chittagong district, this internationally acclaimed sculptor-printmaker did a diploma in Fine Arts, Government College of Art and Craft, Kolkata (1957). He taught at Indian Art College and Delhi Polytechnic before joining the Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan apart from serving as a Visiting Lecturer at M. S. University of Baroda. He received several prestigious awards including the Lalit Kala Ratna Puraskar (2004); L. N. Gupta Memorial Award (1977); the National Award in Painting in 1960 at LKA, Delhi; the National Award in Graphics (1962, 1963); and the Rabindra Bharati University Award among others, apart from being awarded Padma Bhushan (posthumously).

Among his selected posthumous shows are 'Hunger', Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Kolkata (2013); 'Calcutta Chromosome', The Viewing Room, Mumbai (2012-13); 'Crossings: Time Unfolded, Part 2', Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2012); ‘Manifestations VI', Delhi Art Gallery (2011); 'Bodies That Matter......', Art Heritage, Delhi (2011); 'Somnath Hore: Prints, Drawings, Posters', The Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre, Kolkata (2011); 'A Retrospective of Prints', Project 88, Mumbai (2010); 'Vahana', Bombay Art Gallery, Mumbai (2010); 'Modern Continuous', Galerie 88, Kolkata (2009); 'Wound', Aicon Gallery, London (2009); and a major showcase of Indian art at Royal Cultural Centre, Amman, Jordan courtesy LKA, Delhi in collaboration with Embassy of India (2008).

More than five decades ago, solo exhibitions of his works were held across different art centers of India including Kolkata (1968, 1956, 1961-62), and New Delhi (1960) apart from participations at Warsaw Biennale of Graphic Arts, Poland in 1968; 1st Triennale of World Art, LKA, Delhi in the same year; International Association of Plastic Artists Exhibition., Tokyo and Kolkata (1966); Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil (1963); Venice Biennale (1962); and Lugano International Graphics Biennale, Switzerland (1960). His recent noteworthy group exhibitions include ‘Manifestations II’, at Delhi Art Gallery and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (2004); Manifestations (2003) at World Trade Centre, Mumbai; Contemporary Indian Paintings from the Chester & Davida Hertwitz Collection Part II, USA (1996).

Veteran artist K. G. Subramanyan had mentioned in an insightful essay in the catalogue published on the occasion of a significant exhibition courtesy the Kolkata-based Seagull Foundation: “On a summer morning the world glows with sunlight, the flowers load the trees, the breeze wafts around a heady kind of perfume—but in Somnath’s vision it is the spectacle of man’s suffering that steals the show. In his paintings and sculptures, in prints and drawings, it is invariably the same. This has been so since a long time. Since he saw the disastrous Bengal famine more than forty years ago; and behind it the panorama of rural poverty when still a youth. He goes over and over this obsessively.

“In everything he sees, he reads its gesture of tragedy. So in a crack in the earth, he sees a dire menace. In fissures in the wall, he recalls a gaping wound. Even his sensuous fantasies are sewn up in a skin of suffering. Lean bodies of men and women huddled in wan despair. With faces whose flesh sinks into the bone; whose chests cannot find enough skin to hide their hollow nakedness; whose eyes are sockets from which all light has been drained out; mouths whose only voice is that of rattling teeth. Then the skinny dogs and bony cows and goats that keep them languid company. They do not repel our eye; they draw us in.”

Working in a wide range of media such as printmaking, watercolor and drawing, he turned to sculpture during the later years of his career. Considered one of the major drivers of India’s modern art movement in the 20th century, he received immense applause not only as a sculptor and graphic artist but also as a major political activist, who boldly used his artistic talent for expressing his angst against a rigid socio-political system that espoused acts of violence. Somnath Hore lived and worked in the serene settings of Santiniketan until his death. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 85 years of age.