Bhubaneswar: Bansidhar Patra, renowned painter, designer and artist breathed his last, on December 28, but many art lovers of Odisha, Kolkata (where he was educated in art) and the rest of the world could not notice this huge loss, as the great artist, never hankered for publicity and recognition all his life.
Late Dinanath Pathy, one of the greatest contemporary artists of modern era regarded him as one of his gurus. Famous artists like Amanta Panda, Harish Sinha, Shyamsundar Patnaik, Lokanatha Satpathy and Baishanb Samal were his contemporaries. However, with an attitude of ‘dedication to work and nothing other than that’ always put him away from public gaze.
He was from Bhusandpur, a well-known village on the outskirts of the Odisha capital. He also breathed his last there in his paternal village. During his 86 years of journey, Bansidhar never compromised with his conscience and always did what he thought was right. He always put his creation on the forefront, and not his name as the creator.
Once asked why he was not eager to let his name go with his works, the unassuming painter said “if we go for name, how many names will be written in the world heritage site Konark?’’
He was perhaps hinting at the 1,200 sculptors who once built one of the Seven Wonders of the World and they never did this masterpiece in engineering to make a name, but in reality, they executed a work of extraordinary artistic quality. There was never any hankering for name and pride for the creators of Konark.
One of his greatest contributions could be the fact that he modified the design of the masthead of the iconic Odia daily ‘Samaja’ as the-then manager of the old newspaper Artatrana Mishra, had offered him the job. The latter had a lot of confidence in Bansidhar.
Extraordinary in making landscape and design and author of more than 700 poems in his life, the legendary artist was once offered a job to spread Indian art and traditional designs across the country by the Consulate General of the US in India but the proposal could not materialise due to family issues.
He was good at making landscapes both in oil and watercolours. During his time, a few artists were fond of watercolour and graphics. He had experimented with many
watercolour processes and colour lithographs. His colour lithographs are like
watercolours. His Indian style of painting is also quite different. In Batik and leather craft, he was excellent for his non-conventional designs during the early sixties.
As an artist, Bansidhar Patra was loved by the young mass of his time. He was far from any sort of politics in the art field, so was liked by one and all. He was open about sharing his knowledge with the artists, young and old hence veterans like Dinanatha Pathy used to respect him and treated him like a teacher.
As an artist, Bansidhar Patra worked extensively as a freelancer with the American Library, Kolkata. His many beautiful design works are present in many private collections in Kolkata. He could not take the offer of the US Consulate General for spreading Indian art and designs but he remembered it throughout his life.
The great artist ran a studio in Cuttack and worked for the Family Welfare Department, The Samaja office and many other agencies and organisations as a freelance artist. Some of his works are still there in Puri, Cuttack, New Delhi, Kolkata and in the USA, as private collections.
He made a difference on account of the selection of his works during his academic days for annual exhibitions and was widely discussed in the media. He participated in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) exhibition at Berhampur under the guidance of the legendary Bipra Charan Mohanty. Though he participated in the annual state-level art exhibition of Odisha Lalit Kala Academy, he did not participate in the sale and competition category. He was also offered an art teacher’s jobs in schools and art colleges and government departments but did not join.
Although the artist studied in Bengal, the themes of his paintings were based on life in Odisha, rural Odisha in landscape, figure drawings, graphics and watercolours. He always chose to discuss art education but his greatest weakness was perhaps the paternal property. Due to a family dispute, he was forced to forgo offers from many good organisations including the one from the US Consulate General.
His life was full of artistic attributes. He was a trained musician and used to play the violin. He also played flute but preferred violin.
After primary education from his village Bhusandpur and matriculation from Tangi High School Khurda, he dropped out for two years. Then suddenly he jumped over to music and joined violin classes at Kala Vikash Kendra, Cuttack in 1953-54 and completed one year of violin course. He also undertook a preparatory art education course from Muralidhar Tali, Bibhuti Kanoongo, Nityananda Mohapatra and Basanta Kumar Panda. Then he studied in Class XI in Marwari High School and did his matriculation in 1954.
After schooling he joined Indian Art College, Kolkata for one year in 1955. He studied in Government College of Art and Craft, Calcutta (Painting Department) from 1956 to 1961. After that, he studied in the design department (leather craft and Batik) in Government College of Art and Craft, Calcutta from 1961 to 1963. He stood first in design. He took special training classes under gurus like Satyen Ghosal, Kishori Ray, Pradosh Dasgupta and Gopal Ghosh.
He is survived by his wife, Sarojini Patra, son Nihar Ranjan Patra, daughter-in-law Rashmi Choudhury, daughters Lalita, Anuradha and many grandchildren. He lived in a joint family as he had a deep-rooted love for the Indian social structure and culture. Throughout his life, a fellow villager, Nabakishore Barik served him like a true friend till his demise.
However, till his death, the great artist was never honoured by the State Lalit Kala Akademi nor did the Odisha Government do anything to document his excellent works. There should be an effort to initiate a proper documentation process of the works of the outstanding artist.