Wednesday, February 8

CU paintings on restoration path

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Acollection of21 oil paintingsw hich hasbeen in Calcutta University ‘ spo sse ss ionf or ov er ac ent uryis being restored..

One of the “rare ” paintingsthat adornedawallofthe his-toric Darbhanga Hall and isnow being restored is ap or-trait of W.C. Bonnerjee, thefirst president of the IndianNational Congre ss, by Shas hiKumar Hesh (1899)..

“ We have come to knowthat only two portraits of Heshare in India. One of them is ofW.C. Bonnerjee, which is inour collection, ” Calcutta Uni-versityv ic e-ch anc ellor Son aliChakravarti Banerjee said..

The university hashandedthe “ uphill task ” of restoringthe paintings to artist Suva-prasanna, the chairman of theWest Bengal Heritage Com-mission. Ateam from an insti-tution founded by Suvapra-sanna, Arts Acre, is at workunder the artist’ss upervisio n.Restoration is ac omplexmix of art and science, whichapparently only af ew in thecity have mastered. Arun Ghose, widely respected for his skill at restoring works of art, told Metro he could not comment on the job at hand without looking at “each and every painting”.

“The oil paintings in possession of the university are all works of famous artists. The paintings are old and many of them may need restoration. I had seen the paintings many years back.

But I can’t comment on the restoration without having an understanding of their exact present state,” said Ghose.

Jayanta Sengupta, who as secretary and curator of the Victoria Memorial Hall is custodian of a trove of old and famous paintings, spoke at length about the difficulties restorers face.

“The older the painting, the more challenging is the task,” said Sengupta. “The condition of the canvas, frame and stretchers that mount the canvas on the frame are all very important. A 100-year-old oil on canvas is an extremely delicate material. Moisture and dust are its prime adversaries. Without lack of proper maintenance, the canvas can develop cracks, like a crocodile skinVictoria has a restoration team that has helped Calcutta High Court revive a giant portrait of Justice Sambhunath Pandit, the first Indian judge of the court. It has also advised Calcutta Club on how to restore a painting of George V and Presidency University on restoring paintings of former principals and one oil by Bikash Bhattacharya depicting a young Subhas Chandra Bose.

At Calcutta University, most of the oil paintings being restored are of personalities who were associated with the institution.

Vice-chancellor Chakravarti said: “Some of the paintings have developed cracks. Thick layers of dust and dirt had settled on some of the paintings. It was difficult to An 1897 portrait of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay by Bamapada Bandyopadhyay recognise the figures because of the dustThe wooden frames of some of the paintings had broken and are being restored, too.

The restoration had started six months back and will take another three to four months.

Suvaprasanna told this newspaper: “Many of the paintings have been damaged because of years of neglect. We are trying to bring back their original forms. Some of the pictures are being restored only through cleaning. Some, in which tears and holes have developed, are being repaired. This is an uphill taskMany of the 21 paintings being restored were displayed in the Senate House for decades.

After the demolition of the Senate House in the 1960s, the paintings were shifted to the Darbhanga Hall at the Darbhanga Building, where the senate now meets.

The collection includes portraits of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (by Bamapada Bandyopadhyay, 1897), Reverend Kalicharan Banerjee (by A.E. Haris, 1908), Rashbehari Ghosh and Sir Asutosh Mukherjee (by Jamini Prakash Ganguly), U.N. Brahmachari (by Atul Bose) and the Maharaja of Darbhanga (by an unknown painter).

The dates of the two paintings by Jamini Prakash Ganguly and the one by Atul Bose are unavailable.

There is also a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi by Chintamani Kar (1986) and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar by Isha Mohammed (1991).

Hesh, who was a student of the Government College of Art and Craft in Calcutta in the 1890s, had become the first elected Indian associate in The Royal Scottish Academy, CU officials said. He went to Italy in 1894 and was trained at the Royal Academy of Rome. He was also trained at the Munich Royal Academy..

Source: Telegraph India

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