Satyasri Ukil

Intimate Involvement: Passionate love of Mukul Chandra Dey for drypoint and etching

— Satyasri Ukil

Mukul Dey at his studio ‘Kalika’
Photo: Satyasri Ukil
A printmaker’s studio is a strange interface between art and technology, where art production is as dependent on artistic skills as on chemicals, machines, and specialized tools to engrave and scratch the image on metal plates. Here one finds needles and burins instead of brushes. And the place is full with acid mordant, beeswax, asphalt, bitumen, hotplate, French Chalk, pigments, metal plates and finally the press, with its rollers, and sets of soft yet durable felt sheets. The entire scenario is in stark contrast to the almost feminine tenderness of a painter’s studio. Yet here are produced images with wonderful chiaroscuro and bold and delicately fluid lines in multiple impressions! A printing studio may seem medieval, yet it withstands obsolescence.

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Criminal Attack on Shivashri Ukil by Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan

— Satyasri Ukil

Visva-Bharati attack in progress while VB Security Officer looks on.
Photo: Sheikh Ikbal
Notice / Record of Events related to Criminal Case No. 73/13 of February 20, 2013

 

March 5, 2013

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Ajodhya-Bankati Revisited

— Satyasri Ukil

Terracotta Temples at Kamar-para, Ajodhya.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
The villages of Bankati (or, Bonkati) and Ajodhya are situated at the periphery of an ancient Sal (Shorea robusta) forest on the south bank of river Ajoy in the district of Barddhaman, West Bengal. If one is travelling from Bolpur-Santiniketan in the adjacent district of Birbhum, then at Illambazar one crosses Ajoy to hit a point on the highway popularly known as “Egaro Mile”(11th mile, in English), and there takes a right turn to the twin villages of Bankati and Ajodhya.

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Tomimaro Higuchi: The Ukiyo-e Artist's Exhibition in Calcutta

— Satyasri Ukil

Mukul Dey, Japanese Consul with wife and artist Tomimaro Higuchi at the inauguration of his exhibition at Government School of Art, Calcutta 1931
Photo: The Statesman, Calcutta

In the month of May, 1931 Mukul Dey sponsored an exhibition of modern Japanese Ukiyo-e prints by Tomimaro Higuchi (? 1898-1981) and his artist friends at the premises of Government School of Art, Calcutta. Mukul Dey’s relation with Japan and Japanese artists and art lovers began way back in 1916, when as a young Indian art student he accompanied Rabindranath Tagore to his first trip to Japan.

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Kosetsu Nosu: The Japanese Artist who Painted at Sarnath

— Satyasri Ukil

Kosetsu Nosu, reprinted from 1936 exhibition catalogue
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
Once upon a time the Chitralekha House at Santiniketan had a richer collection of original paintings than what it has now. Many of these were displayed in our south facing verandah and other rooms. One such painting, hung on the wall adjacent to a peculiar staircase leading to the first-floor, was a brush-n-ink work by Kosetsu Nosu done on golden yellow Japanese silk stretched on a wooden frame. It depicted Lord Buddha, sitting cross-legged amid a stark desolate landscape. The picture fascinated me even as a child, the lines being bold, fluid and beautiful.

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Kokka Woodblock Reproductions of Early Neo-Bengal School Paintings

— Satyasri Ukil

Feast of Lamps by Abanindranath Tagore, Kokka woodblock print
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
Kakuzo Okakura, in ‘The Ideals of the East’ (published by E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1903, p.1) says:

Asia is one. The Himalayas divide, only to accentuate, two mighty civilisations, the Chinese with its communism of Confucius, and the Indian with its individualism of the Vedas. But not even the snowy barriers can interrupt for one moment that broad expanse of love for the Ultimate and Universal, which is the common thought-inheritance of every Asiatic race, enabling them to produce all the great religions of the world, and distinguishing them from those maritime peoples of the Mediterranean and the Baltic, who love to dwell on the Particular, and to search out the means, not the end, of life.”

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Rabindranath Tagore's Exhibition

— Satyasri Ukil

Rabindranath Tagore at his painting desk. This photograph was exposed by Mukul Dey on monochrome glass-plate at 28, Chowringhee, Calcutta in 1932. Tagore often used Pelican coloured inks to paint his pictures.
Photo: Mukul Dey
Exhibition held at Government School of Art, Calcutta, 1932

Reprinted from ‘Art & Deal’, August-September, 1999.

It would have been proper to provide a backdrop of Rabindranath Tagore/Mukul Dey relationship before attempting to restructure these pragmatic aspects of an exhibition, which might generate controversies regarding certain ideological questions in the end.

Artist Mukul Dey, the sponsor of this historic exhibition was a student of Tagore’s school at Santiniketan during the years c. 1906 till 1912. Once a disciple and protégé, later on a rebel and a deserter (Dec. 13, 1917) Mukul Dey came back from U. K. to take the charge of Government School of Art, Calcutta, on July 11, 1928 as its first Indian Principal.

Our story begins here: at Calcutta, in the year 1928.

As source material to examine and narrate the topic mentioned above we have a set of nine letters of Rabindranath Tagore to Mukul Dey between Nov. 1928 and Nov. 1933; one printed and published illustrated catalogue of this exhibition; a set of six money receipts; one letter of poet’s son, Rathindranath Tagore to Mukul Dey dated March 18, 1932 and two newspaper clippings of ‘The Statesman’, Calcutta, 1932.

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Birbhum Terracottas: Mukul Dey's Documentation

— Satyasri Ukil

Terracotta temple at Adityapur village in Birbhum.
Photo: Mukul Dey
One of my earliest childhood memories is the image of burly Mukul Dey, in long johns and apron, drenched in the mellow glow of his darkroom safelights. The part of our family house Chitralekha in Santiniketan where his photographic darkroom was located is dilapidated now, covered with a thick green layer of moss and creepers. Once upon a time, this was a place of great fascination for us youngsters‚ with its bottles and jars of chemicals, trays, tongs and timer—a place that magically came to life under the red-orange spell of those safelights.

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Quinquennial Report of the Government School of Art,1927-1932: An introduction

— Satyasri Ukil

Photo: Mukul Dey ArchivesThe Quinquennial Report of the Government School of Art, Calcutta for the years 1927-1932, is a twenty-one page document created by Mukul Dey during his tenure as the first Indian Principal of that institution. The Report was printed at the Bengal Government Press in 1933.





The Report is important for various reasons. Firstly, at the very outset, it gives a brief history of the institution, which helps to set a perspective and context before the reader. It recalls the contribution by such eminent personalities as Rajendra Lal Mitra, Jotindra Mohan Tagore and Justice Pratt in forming the Industrial Art Society, which was instrumental in establishing the School of Industrial Art in Calcutta way back in 1854, as a private enterprise.

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Jamini Roy: The First But Forgotten Exhibition

— Satyasri Ukil

Jamini Roy exhibition catalogue, Calcutta 1929
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives
This article is reprinted from ‘Art & Deal’, May-June, 2000.


It is proposed to record here, approximately seventy-one years after the event, the details of a one-man show where Jamini Roy presented for the first time his style of painting with folk idioms.

Except in the writings of Jogesh Chandra Bagal (Centenary Volume, p. 48) this particular exhibition of Roy fails to secure even a passing mention in the apparently erudite and informative writing of Shahid Suhrawardy, and Bishnu Dey and John Irwin (Jamini Roy) respectively. Surprisingly, in none of the subsequent literature on Roy do we find any mention of this particular exhibition. Why?

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