Abdur Razzaque 1932-2005
After completing graduation from the Art Institute in Dhaka, Abdur Razzaque received a Fulbright grant and pursued post graduate studies in Iowa, USA. There he worked under the renowned printmaker Mauricio Lasansky. Incidentally, he was the first Bangladeshi to earn a master’s degree in Fine Art.
Proficient in graphics, sculpture and painting, Razzaque is especially remembered for his role in establishing the Department of Sculpture in the Institute of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. Razzaque designed and executed some of the most notable public sculptures in the country such as, ‘Shaheen’ for the Bangladesh Air Force, and ‘Jagrata Chourangi’ at Gazipur. Razzaque received the Ekushey Padak in 1987, among other honours and awards.
Abdus Shakoor Shah 1947 –
Shah spent his formative years under the guidance of the distinguished artist Rashid Choudhury, in the University of Chittagong. Later while studying in Baroda, India, the revivalist ideas of K G Subramanyan influenced him deeply. Shah’s style of using folk art in a succinct post-modern backdrop is inspired by the works of Jamini Roy, Quamrul Hassan, the Gujrati Jain miniatures and pata paintings of Bengal. His works have been widely exhibited. Abdus Shakoor Shah taught at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
Abu Taher 1936-2020
Painting in the splash and impasto style, Taher’s paintings are distinguished by a certain tectonic quality, where colours and texture become dominant. A graduate of the Dhaka Art Institute, Taher received the Ekushey Padak in 1994, among other honours. He taught at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
Abul Barq Alvi 1949 –
Alvi’s formative years in the Government College of Art and Crafts in Dhaka, were spent under the tutelage of the distinguished painters and printmakers Mohammad Kibria and Safiuddin. A cultural exchange programme with the USA enabled Alvi to study printmaking under Michael Ponce-de-Leon. In 1983-84, he completed post graduate research under Naomi Asakur in Japan. He played an important part in the cultural movement of the sixties. Drawn into the vortex of political upheaval and the war of 1971, Alvi participated in the front lines and suffered in the hands of the Pakistan army. A deep identification with the land and the rivers shaped his unique style of abstraction. Abul Barq Alvi taught at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
Abul Monsur 1947 –
Abul Monsur is an art critic and essayist. A graduate of the Dhaka Art Institute, Monsur received his master’s in art history from Baroda, India. He taught at the University of Chittagong. Monsur served as contributor to Banglapaedia and Cultural Survey of Bangladesh published by The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. He has written articles for art journals and monographs, catalogues, reputed journals and dailies, as well as written introductions and reviews on art and artists in various anthologies, at home and abroad. Monsur also served as a Member of the Jury in the 12th (1998) and 17th (2009) National Art Exhibition and 14th Asian Art Biennial (2010) organized by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Aminul Islam 1931 – 2011
Aminul Islam was among the first graduates of the newly established Government Art Institute in Dhaka, founded by Zainul Abedin in 1948. He is also considered a forerunner of critical art-writing in Bangladesh. Following higher study in Florence and a tour of Europe in the fifties, Islam charted a new course that took him beyond sterile conventions to modernist expressions with forms, colour and perspective. His left-leaning ideologies would not allow him to entirely banish figures from his canvases. An autobiographical streak runs through many of his early works. In course of time his work became increasingly geometrically organised.
Islam taught at the Government Institute of Fine Art for almost three decades. He received the Grand Imperial Prize at the 5th Tehran Biennale (1966), the Ekushey Padak (1981), and the Independence Award (1988), among other honours.
Alak Roy 1950-
As a youth Alak Roy was caught up in the political turmoil of the late sixties and the Liberation War of 1971. He graduated from Dhaka Art College, where he credits his teachers Rafiqun Nabi and Monirul Islam, among others, for opening up new horizons. He studied murals for a master’s degree at Baroda, India, under K.G. Subramanyam. There he began creating in clay and developed an understanding of the centuries-old terracotta tradition of Bengal. In terms of form, colour, embellishment and shapes, Roy developed a definite style and an indigenous vocabulary that resonates a deep connection with nature. In his work, he presents seeds, water, earth, trees, and clouds – all drawn from natural surroundings, and places man in that backdrop. Roy’s works have been widely exhibited. Among his honours and awards are the Beijing Olympic 2008 Contest Award for Landscape Sculpture (2006) and a gold medal in the Asian Biennale (1989).
Ahmed Shamsuddoha 1958-
After graduating from the Government Art College in Dhaka, Shamsuddoha set out as a landscape painter. For a long time, panoramas of rural life, rivers, life in Old Dhaka and the ravages of flood were the subjects of his paintings. He was later drawn to surrealism. Local motifs such as the Kathgolap (Frangipani), as well as barren tree-forms, twigs, broken clay pots, and branches, and crystal balls, commonly appear in his work. The artist chooses to avoid figures in his landscapes. Shamsuddoha is adept in portraiture. His works have been widely exhibited.
Alakesh Ghosh 1950
Alakesh Ghosh is a member of the generation that came of age in the period following the Liberation War of 1971. Although proficient in various media, it is unquestionably his mastery of watercolor that sets Ghosh apart. A sensitive and imaginative painter who observes with the ‘inner eye’, Ghosh admits that for him, painting is an act of meditation. His body of work reflects a deep attachment to picturesque rural Bangladesh. Ghosh is a graduate of the Government Art College in Dhaka.
Biren shome 1948-
Biren Shome used images of horses, pushcarts, and wheels, in his early works to represent speed and struggle. His later abstract works display a certain romantic concern for vibrant, pulsating hues. Shome graduated from the Government Art College in Dhaka. In 1971, he was associated with the provisional Government of Bangladesh in exile, as a designer in the Information Department. A printmaker and painter, Biren Shome served in the National Herbarium as a designer, for over three decades.
Chandra Shekhar Dey 1951
An impassioned outburst of colour and sharply contrasted use of light and shade that evokes memories of a timeless past, childhood, and history, often mark Dey’s work. The artist was profoundly affected by the War of Liberation of 1971. By and large an urban artist, Dey’s later work steps into surrealist territory. Dey received a master’s degree in art from the University of Chittagong, where he later taught.
Debdas Chakraborty 1933 – 2008
Debdas Chakraborty’s early association with student politics forced him to flee Kolkata and enrol at the newly formed art institute in Dhaka. He lived and worked in Dhaka the rest of his life. During the 1971 War of Liberation, Debdas worked as a designer in the press and media wing of the provisional government of Bangladesh. It was around this time he designed the iconic poster on nationalist solidarity ‘Banglar Hindu/ Banglar Bouddha. . .(The Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims of Bengal are all one; we are Bengalis’’.
Chakraborty trained in Poland in graphic art and printmaking. Working on a variety of mediums, he focused on the changing seasons, rains and the sights and sounds of nature, with a sharp accent on the tactile. He taught at the Department of Fine Arts, Chittagong University. Chakraborty received the Ekushey Padak in 1990, among other honours.
Dhali Al Mamoon 1958
Artist and educator Dhali Al Mamoon is known for his deeply thoughtful drawings, paintings, kinetic sculptures and installations that explore issues of knowledge production, history and identity. A DAAD Fellow at Hocchule der Kunste in Berlin, in the mid-nineties, Mamoon taught in the Department of Fine Arts, University of Chittagong. He lives and works in Chattogram. Mamoon’s works have been widely exhibited.
Dilara Begum Jolly 1960
Dilara Begum Jolly’s work fascinates with its extraordinarily rich imagery and eloquence. Stirred by strife, political turmoil and gender identity, she has produced a profoundly thoughtful body of work in paintings, drawings, sculptures, and needle piercings on photographs and film. A graduate in fine art from the University of Chittagong, Jolly received a master’s degree from the Art Institute in Dhaka, and later pursued a higher degree in printmaking from Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, India. Jolly lives and works in Chattogram. Her works have been widely exhibited.
Farida Zaman 1953
Farida Zaman’s calm and composure is transmitted through a special sensitivity and characterisation in her depiction of riverine life in Bangladesh. Her works draw on the lives of fishermen and the nets they use. A graduate of the Government Art College in Dhaka, Zaman received her Ph D from Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, India. She taught in the Department of Drawing and Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Zaman received the Ekushey Padak in 2020, among other honours.
Hamidur Rahman 1928-1988
Trained in the beaux arts tradition in the fifties, Rahman was an important figure in the modernist movement of painting in the country. He studied in the London Central School of Art and Design (1956) and trained in Florence in mural painting (1953). Rahman worked as a research scholar in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1958 to ‘59. Later he taught in Montreal, Canada. He, along with Novera Ahmed, developed the design of the 1952 Language Movement Martyrs Memorial (Shaheed Minar) in Dhaka. Notable among his awards are the First prize at the 5th Tehran Biennale, Commonwealth Painters Association Best Award, President’s Award for Pride of Performance in Painting (1970) and the Ekushey Padak (1980).
Hamiduzzaman Khan 1946
A visit to the USA as an intern at the New York Sculpture Center in the early eighties exposed Khan to abstract forms and their relationship to public spaces and urban landscapes. On his return he became one of the leading Bangladeshi artists to focus on the integration of art and sculpture in public spaces. He assisted his teacher Abdur Razzaque in the noteworthy ‘Jagrata Chourangi’ sculpture project in Gazipur. Khan graduated from the Government College of Art and Craft and later received his master’s degree from Baroda, India. His works have been widely exhibited. Khan taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. He received the Ekushey Padak in 2006.
Hashem Khan 1941
Hashem Khan’s artistic vision evolved within the developing nationalist narrative linked to the political upheavals of his time. Quaint rural settings fed the artist’s imagination. He later spent a large part of his time and energy in illustrating children’s books and ensuring art education for children. The Liberation War of 1971 is a major theme in Khan’s works. He belongs to the abstract school of painters and like many of his contemporaries, focuses on rural Bangladesh for inspiration.
Hashem Khan graduated from the Government Art Institute and received training in book design and Illustration in Tokyo. He taught in the Institute of Fine Arts, Dhaka, for 44 years. Khan is a founder member of the Dhaka City Museum. Hashem Khan received the Ekushey Padak in 1992 and the Independence Day Award in 2011, among many honours and awards.
Jamaluddin Ahmed 1955
A leading realist painter, Jamal Ahmed’s iconic series on pigeons, horses, boats,
gypsies, flood victims, fishermen, marine life and the troubadours of Bangladesh have found a
place in the hearts of many. A graduate of the Government College of Art in Dhaka, Ahmed received a post graduate degree from Tsukuba University, Tokyo. He draws widely on his experience of work and study in Warsaw, Tokyo and the USA. Ahmed teaches at the Department of Drawing & Painting in the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. He received the Ekushey Padak in 2020, among other honours and awards.
Kalidas Karmakar 1946 – 2019
Drawing and painting came naturally to Kalidas Karmakar, given that the larger family’s occupation was that of goldsmiths and artisans. A graduate of the Kolkata Government Art College, Karmakar began his career in the seventies in Dhaka with paintings and prints in which he explored mythic and Tantric images, thereby opening up new possibilities for etching and aquatint. He researched printmaking and graphic art in Poland, Japan and France. Karmakar’s performances on the Chars of the River Padma in the late eighties, signalled the advent of site-specific art in Bangladesh. His works have been shown around the world. Karmakar received the Ekushey Padak in 2018, among other honours and awards.
Kanak Chanpa Chakma 1963
Kanak Chanpa Chakma’s paintings lend unique insight into the daily lives, struggles, tribulations and happier moments of the Chakma tribe who inhabit the Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Her realism veers towards the narrative-metaphorical, the evocative, and in some cases, romantic. The artist’s works have been widely exhibited. Kanak Chanpa Chakma is a freelance artist who lives and works in Dhaka.
Kazi Abdul Baset 1935 – 2002
Powerful childhood memories of the cadence of rural life, rivers and nature’s abundance, are foundational in the works of Kazi Abdul Baset. Schooled in the older part of the city, Baset easily identified with the wit and wry humour of the Dhaka natives. At the Art Institute, he blossomed under the care of Zainul Abedin, Safiuddin Ahmed, Anwarul Haque and Quamrul Hassan. Baset did his higher studies in Chicago and later joined the Dhaka Art Institute as a teacher. Figurations with cubist overtones brought women, mothers, and daughters as predominant themes in his work. The image of a mother waiting for her son to return from the war is central to these. Baset received the Ekushey Padak (1991), among other honours and awards.
Kazi Ghiyasuddin 1951
Kazi Ghiyasuddin has crafted a profound visual language based on mutability, change and
nostalgia. His canvases and works on paper are sites for consecration through the elegant mingling of colours and shapes, use of signs, runes and scribbles. Childhood memories of rural Bengal, the upheavals of the War of 1971, and his subsequent stay in Japan shaped a deliberate ambiguity in his work, which is perhaps aimed at sidelining the horrors of the contemporary world and seeking solace in nature. The Tokyo-based artist is influenced by Japanese art and philosophy, but never fails to turn to his roots for inspiration. Ghiyasuddin graduated from the Government Art College in Dhaka, in 1970. Soon after he left for Japan to pursue a master’s degree and then a Ph. D in Art. Although Ghiyasuddin now spends most of his time in Tokyo, he chooses to spend the monsoon-laden summer months in his studio in Dhaka. Notable among his awards are the Japanese Emperor’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, which he received in 2018..
Mahmudul Haque 1945-2022
In his childhood, Mahmudul Haque was drawn to the illustrations in his textbooks. At home he marvelled at an uncle who was often busy decorating wedding venues with coloured paper, and the beautiful kanthas (embroidered quilts) stitched by women. Later, at the Art Institute in Dhaka, his teacher Mohammad Kibria was a great influence. The analytical quality of printmaking and the emotive aspects of painting come together in Haque’s works. He did postgraduate studies in printmaking in Japan. This was followed by teaching stints in Japan, USA, Pakistan, Nepal, and India. He taught at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. Haque also served as director general of the Bangladesh National Museum. He received 12th Kuwait International Biennale Award (1996) and The Order of the Rising Sun (2019) from the Emperor of Japan, among other awards and honours.
Mohammad Eunus 1954
After graduation from the Government Art College in Dhaka, Mohammed Eunus left for Japan to pursue higher studies. This sharpened his sensibilities and awakened him to the possibilities of new experimentations in line, space and colour. His style has undergone many changes, from the academic to figurative to purely abstract work. His cityscapes are sensitive and haunting portrayals of a decaying time and their geometric and staggered composition makes them deeply poignant. Eunus’ work has been exhibited widely. An arts organiser, educator, and painter, Eunus teaches at Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.
Mohammad Kibria 1929 – 2011
A forerunner of the modernist movement, Mohammad Kibria has been a significant force in shaping the destiny of art in Bangladesh. Kibria graduated from the Kolkata Government Art School in 1950. By the time his language of expression congealed into a viable vocabulary following the end of his period of study and apprenticeship in Japan, which left him emboldened enough to have mobilized his own sets of desire and to pursue abstraction in his art, the tumultuous 1960s dawned. Breaking away from the historically/culturally entrenched art practices of the 1950s, when Zainul Abedin and Quamrul Hassan, along with other modern pioneers, were engaged in artistic creation that aspired to intersect Bengali identity with modern-day expressivity, Kibria chose to draw a new line on the horizon, showing only faint signs of location and lived experience. After 45 years of teaching Kibria was made Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, in 2008. He received the Ekushey Padak (1983), the Independence Award (1999) and the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Honour award (2002), among many honours and awards.
Monirul Islam 1942
Brilliant in their humane expression, Monirul Islam’s abstract works with geometric motifs, subtle use of lyrical lines and a harmonious colour balance between space and composition narrate human emotions, joy, sufferings, and memories. Childhood memories of the vast lowlands in Kishoreganj and the seemingly endless bank of the River Meghna in Chandpur, have stayed with him. The artist graduated from the Government Art College in Dhaka and after a brief teaching stint, moved to Spain in 1969. Islam quickly achieved international renown. He was the first non-Spanish to receive the Calcographia Nacional Award of Spain (1997). In 2010 he was conferred the Cross of Officer of the Order of Queen Isabella for outstanding contribution in art. He received the Royal Spanish Order of Merit in 2018. Monirul Islam divides his time between Dhaka and Madrid.
Monsur Ul Karim 1950-2020
Monsurul Karim’s semi abstract compositions with loosely drawn figures, organic and free flowing lines, and child-like drawings and scribbles, powerfully evoke the landscape of riverine and rural Bangladesh. A graduate of the Government Art Colle in Dhaka, Karim received his master’s from the University of Chittagong, and taught in the Department of Fine Art, University of Chittagong. He received the Grand Award in the 8th Indian Triennial International (1994), and the Ekushey Padak (2009), among other honours. Monsur Ul Karim spent his last days at Rajbari, in southern Bangladesh, where he set up an art space for students and young artists.
Murtaja Baseer 1932-2020
Murtaja Baseer’s father, Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah, the illustrious linguist, philologist, educationist, and teacher, was an important influence in his life. After graduation from the Government Art Institute, Dhaka, Baseer moved to Florence to study fresco, and then trained in mosaic and aquatint in Paris. The influence of the pre-Renaissance painters such as Giotto, Cimbue, and Duccio, would stay with him throughout his career. His creative talents flourished in diverse forms and modes of expression, although there was a marked propensity for abstract realism. Baseer was active in left politics in the fifties and suffered prison in the hands of the erstwhile Pakistan government. A leading figure in Bangladesh art, Baseer worked in phases, often producing a series of works such as Epitaph (dedicated to the martyrs of the Liberation War of 1971), Wings, and the more sombre Wall. The artist was also a poet, short story writer, novelist, researcher, numismatist and filmmaker. Notable among his many awards and accolades are the Prix National, Festival of Painting, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France (1973), the
Ekushey Padak (1980), Independence Award (2019). He was a nominator for the Fukuoka Cultural Prize Committee in Japan (1992 to 2004) and taught in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Chittagong. Baseer lived and worked in Dhaka.
Mustafa Monwar 1935
Mustafa Monwar is an eminent Bangladeshi artist, painter, sculptor, puppeteer, TV and radio programme director and producer. After graduating from the Government Art College in Kolkata, he started his teaching career at the College of Art and Crafts in Dhaka. Monwar is remembered for his contribution in the sixties uprising, and in the Liberation War of 1971, when he organised puppet shows in camps in West Bengal, India, in order to boost the morale of refugees who had fled the conflict. Such was the popularity of these shows that the American documentary filmmaker Lear Levin visited Bangladesh to make a film on his puppets. These scenes were later added to director Tareque Masud’s noted film, Muktir Gaan.
A former chairman of Bangladesh Shishu (Children’s) Academy, Mustafa Monwar is known to children as the ‘Puppet Man’ for his brilliant contribution as a masterful puppeteer. He taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Monwar’s television and stage plays significantly impacted the country’s cultural milieu. The noted Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray lauded Monwar for his stage design and the atmosphere of his productions. He received the Ekushey Padak in 2004, among many honours and awards.
Nasim Ahmed Nadvi 1954
An awareness of the subtle presence of nature with all its intertwining patterns of light and shade permeates Nadvi’s work. With elementary colours, sometimes working with shades of the same hue, he creates an illusion of wide space with simple brush strokes. His minimalist reading of common objects often collapses dimensions to catch nuances rather than the object’s fullness. Actively involved in the Liberation War of 1971, Nadvi never gave up his belief in nature’s ability to guide us and be a source of strength in times of struggle. After graduating from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Nadvi completed his master’s degree from Baroda, India. He served in the Bangladesh National Museum and the Shilpakala Academy, with important contributions in the Asian Art Biennale.
Nasreen Begum 1956
Nasreen Begum uses highly stylised figures, drawn primarily in flat body tones and transparent earth colours, that appear frozen in time. Her search is both for the known and the unknown in nature, which take her to the tiniest leaf of grass, as well as to the dancing waves of the sea. Floral rhythms, feminine grace, pristine landscapes, autumnal beauty, and nature and its minute elements are featured in her paintings. She graduated from the Government Art College in Dhaka, and went on to receive her master’s degree in Printmaking from Baroda, India. Nasreen Begum teaches at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.
Nazlee Laila Monsur 1952
Nazlee Laila Monsur chooses a subaltern art form from a non-appropriative stand and uses visual story-telling. Her political stance manifests itself in vivid, saturated and penetrating colours and a photo-realistic rendition of images of ordinary people’s lives. An empty gaze or lecherous glance, or the careful avoidance of eye contact, represents society’s inequities, oppression, rootlessness and perhaps, dreams and longings. Her works are considered satirical by many. The artist received a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Chittagong, and has taught in the Government Art College at Chattogram. Her works have been exhibited in many countries.
Nisar Hossain 1961
Known for his scholarship and critical thinking, Nisar Hossain has opened up the possibility of an alternative reading of art that overlaps our perception of living in the delta. Hossain’s art aims at democratising aesthetics using mundane, banal signifiers and making revelations. The artist graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts, Dhaka, and received an MFA from Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, India. Hossain teaches at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. He has written and lectured widely on art. His works have been exhibited in many countries.
Nitun Kundu 1935-2006
Nitun Kundu was an artist, sculptor and entrepreneur, known for ushering ground-breaking trends in modern furniture design and production. He is also remembered for pioneering the use of integrated wood and metal in furniture. Nitun Kundu graduated from the Government Art College in 1959, topping the class that year. He played an important role in the student uprising in the sixties. In 1975 he established Otobi, a furniture company featuring his own designs, that became emblematic of the young nation’s pride in its post-independence identity. Sabash Bangladesh at Rajshahi University, Sampan at Chittagong Airport, Sangsaptak at Jahangirnagar University and SAARC Fountain at Karwan Bazar, Dhaka, are noteworthy among his public sculptures. Nitun Kundu received the Ekushey Padak in 1997, among other honours.
Qayyum Chowdhury 1932 – 2014
Qayyum Chowdhury’s pre-eminence in the pre and post-independence cultural firmament was linked to his prolific output in the areas of graphic design, illustration, and painting, which are marked for their outstanding typography, motifs and imagery. He was deeply involved in the uprising of the sixties and the subsequent War of 1971. Drawing on the artefacts of rural artisans, the designs on Chowdhury’s canvases are reworked in a more formal, poetic and sensuous manner. Notable among his numerous awards are the Imperial Court Prize, 5th Tehran Biennale, Iran (1966), Ekushey Padak (1986), Bangabandhu Award (1994), and the Independence Award (2014). He won the National Book Centre Prize for best cover design for ten years in a row. Chowdhury taught at the Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.
Quamrul Hassan 1921- 1988
Quamrul Hassan was strongly influenced by Guru Saday Dutt’s Bratachari movement, which called for rejection of and expressions of resistance against British colonial rule and re-establishing the Bengali heritage. He continued to hold on to these ideals until his last days.
A graduate of the Kolkata Art School, Hassan played a leading role in establishing the Government Art Institute in Dhaka, along with Zainul Abedin and others. He also taught at the Institute. Hassan set up the government’s Small and Cottage Industries (now BSCIC) in 1960. As the head of the Design Centre of BSCIC he worked tirelessly to revive artisanal practices and crafts enterprises, until his retirement in 1978.
Quamrul Hassan’s subjects range from colourful pictures depicting a pristine, rural Bengal to a
politically corrupt, degenerate one. His ability to combine traditional pata painting techniques
and folk motifs in a modern paradigm earned him the title ‘Patua Quamrul Hassan’. His
fierce political cartoons inspired the people in civil movements and demonstrations. During the Liberation War of 1971 Hassan served as the Director of the Art Division of the media and information department of the Bangladesh Government in exile. Two of Hassan’s works, notable caricatures of the Pakistani general Yahya Khan and the Bangladeshi dictator Hossain Mohammad Ershad, have come to be part of Bangladesh’s political history. Hassan’s contribution is enshrined in his designs of the monogram of the republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, Bangladesh Bank, and Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
Hassan received the President’s Gold Medal in 1965 and Independence Award in 1979, among other honours and awards.
Rafiqun Nabi 1943
Rafiqun Nabi is known not only for his bold and exceptional paintings, engravings and drawings, but also for his scathing cartoons. Ranabi (Nabi’s pen name as the creator of the street urchin Tokai) on the one hand, is enthusiastically inclined to depict stories of social relevance where Tokai comes off a witty, acerbic character who constantly grapples with the anomalies of life, and on the other hand, in his prints, drawings and paintings, the artist captures the essence of the rural landscape and the lives of the toiling masses. Few painters have been able to impart such childlike wonder to images of Bangladesh’s rural beauty.
Nabi developed an interest in art during his school days which were spent in the old part of Dhaka. He was also fascinated by David Low’s cartoons. He graduated from the Government College of Art and Craft in Dhaka, where Aminul slam, Kazi Abdul Basset, and Anwarul Huq were among the teachers who inspired him. Nabi started teaching, but in the wake of the student uprising in the sixties against the Pakistan junta, he participated actively in the protests. Nabi went on to study printmaking in Athens. He was the first Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Nabi’s awards include the Ekushey Padak (1993), among other honours.
Ranjit Das 1956
Ranjit Das’ compositions derive strength from the juxtaposition of tension and balance represented by lines, panels, and figurations. Even when there are associations of dejection in the composition, a guarded optimism and empathy shines through. The artist is interested to depict man and his substance, nature, and man’s history.
A graduate of the Government College of Arts and Crafts, in Dhaka, Das went on to receive a master’s degree from Baroda, India. His mentor, the noted painter K G Subramanyan, had a profound influence on his later development as an artist. Das won the grand award at the Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh in 1995, among other honours. He taught at the Teacher’s Training College in Dhaka. Ranjit Das is involved in music and other cultural pursuits and continues to work in his studio at Narayanganj.
Rashid Choudhury 1932-1986
Rashid Choudhury was raised in the milieu of a sahajiya enlightenment that prevailed in the greater Faridpur region at the time, and that proved to be a lasting influence on the artist. After graduating from the Dhaka art school, and a brief teaching stint, he left for Madrid. In Paris in 1960 he mastered different techniques and acquainted himself with fresco and tapestry. The last set off his ambitions in tapestry and weaving.
Rashid Choudhury’s involvement and enthusiasm in setting up arts institutions, especially the Fine Arts Department in the Chittagong University (1970) and the College of Arts (1973), is testimony to his far-sightedness and organisational skill. Choudhury was conversant with the ideological underpinnings and directions of artistic trends in the West. He used this understanding to construct a singular language of his own. While in Spain, he first realised the value of knowledge that is innately embodied in local crafts and art practices. Although Choudhury embraced many current styles and modes, he was quick to return to his roots. He was profoundly engaged with questions relating to humanism’s place in modernist culture, and art’s connection to mysticism. Rashid Chaudhury also wrote poems and did translations from the French. During the 1960s, along with poets of the ‘angry young men’ generation, he founded the Na (No) group and published a literary little magazine. Choudhury received the Ekushey Padak in 197, among other honours.
Rokeya Sultana 1958
The deceptive simplicity in Rokeya Sultana’s formal arrangement, which sometimes exploits
the elements of naïve art, the juxtaposition of paint areas, the dynamic colours and flowing
lines, and her delicate attention to details combine to give her work an immediate strength. She addresses issues of womanhood and the power of intuition and imagination.
Sultana was influenced in her formative years by the tumultuous War of Liberation of 1971. She graduated from the Art Institute in Dhaka. Her post-graduate years at Santiniketan in the early eighties, led to a new awakening, with a complete transformation in her artistic language. She is perhaps best known for her two figural series Madonna and Relations, and later for her print series Fata Morgana. Sultana is the recipient of several international awards, including a Fullbright grant. She teaches at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. Her works have been widely exhibited. The artist divides her time between Dhaka and Sydney.
Safiuddin Ahmed 1922-2012
Safiuddin Ahmed was one of the founding members of the art institute in Dhaka. A graduate of the Kolkata art school, his teachers there were Mukul De, Basantakumar Ganguly, Ramendranath Chakravarty, Atul Bose, Prahlad Karmakar, Rissen Mitra, Abdul Moin, among others. He trained in printmaking in London in the fifties. Ahmed’s constant preoccupation with art, until the very last days, is exemplary. Safiuddin’s paintings and prints portray, often in swirling vigorous forms and motifs, spectacular symbols such as eyes, fishing nets and boats. He continuously evoked these images to articulate his understanding of the disquiet and anxiety of the time. Safiuddin received the President’s Gold Medal from the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata (1945), President’s Medal for Pride of Performance in Fine Arts, Pakistan (1963), Ekushey Padak (1978), and Independence Award (1996), among many honours and awards. Ahmed had only two solo shows in his lifetime, in 1959 in London and in 2008 at the Bengal Gallery.
Samarjit Roy Chowdhury 1937
Samarjit Roy Chowdhury’s childhood memories of the simple joys, harmonic patterns, and cadence of rural life, occupy a central place in his painterly vision. The artist’s simplified and nearly abstract language plays on a romantic vision of geometricized, angular images of kites, birds, and buntings, as well as motifs from clay dolls, lokhhi shora, pata-chitra, and other vernacular crafts. Chowdhury graduated of the Government Art Institute, where his artistic skill was honed by Zainul Abedin, Quamrul Hassan, Anwarul Huq, Mohammed Kibria and Safiuddin Ahmed. He taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, for 43 years. Samarjit Roy Chowdhury received the Ekushey Padak in 2014, among other honours.
Shahabuddin Ahmed 1950
Shahabuddin Ahmed earned international acclaim for his bold and dynamic paintings. Inspired by his direct participation and experience in the Liberation War, Ahmed’s dissolving figures, consumed in the dynamics of movement, and a sense of drama makes them champions of a universal cause for freedom. His distinctive style is characterised by a boldness of vision and execution, and over the years it has assumed a sculpturesque quality. Following his graduation from the Art Institute in Dhaka, Ahmed headed to France for higher studies, where he eventually settled down. He was awarded Knight in the order of Art & Literature by the French government, and received the Independence Award in 2000, among other honours and awards.
S M Sultan 1923-1994
A leading modernist painter, Sheikh Mohammad Sultan (S M Sultan) enrolled in the art school in Kolkata but left without completing his degree. He travelled widely in undivided India. His time in Kashmir, especially, was to have a lasting influence, as can be seen in the works that he made decades later. After the Partition of India in 1947, he moved further afield – to America, England and western Europe. In 1973, he returned to his home in Narail where, with the exception of a few long visits to Dhaka, he lived until his death in 1994.
Sultan is best known for his bold and expansive oil paintings that frame epic narratives of the struggle and resilience of peasants. Engaged in exploring the spirit, rather than the
reality of the world that he saw around him, many of Sultan’s surviving works depict idyllic
landscapes, placid animals, vigorous men and languid, voluptuous women. He received the Ekushey Padak (1982) and the Independence Award (1993), among other honours and awards.
Shahid Kabir 1949
Drawn from real life experiences, Shahid Kabir’s subjects are depicted in mild impasto and a painterly fluidity that is both evocative and sensuous. The overall look is faded and unembellished, evoking a sense of pathos. His empathetic stance and powerful insight have established him as a leading painter and printmaker in Bangladesh. Early in his career he received acclaim for his Lalon and Baul series.
After graduating from the Government Art Institute in Dhaka, Kabir taught there until 1980. He then moved to Spain, where he spent a significant part of his career. The formative years spent in Europe added a fuller dimension to his earlier practice. And as he came back home, he did so with gusto introducing a simple idiom that thrives on depiction, or rather, on creating an impression of every-day reality and objects. Notable among his awards are the Carmen Aroshamduzamena Prize, Madrid (1984). Kabir divides his time between Dhaka and Madrid.
Sheikh Afzal 1960
Sheikh Afzal’s childhood was spent in the south west of the country, where he had ample opportunity to observe riverine panoramas and rural life. Picking up vignettes from life around him, his canvases are peopled with ordinary folk, and children. A leading realist painter, Afzal was fortunate to have Mohammad Kibria, Abdul Baset and Rafiqun Nabi as his teachers at the College of Art and Crafts. He received a master’s degree from Japan. Afzal teaches at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
Shishir Bhattacharjee 1960
Shishir Bhattacharjee is known as a political cartoonist whose style has given birth to a new generation of illustrators and caricaturists. Bhattacharjee graduated from the Government Art Institute in Dhaka and went on to receive his masters from Baroda, India. He taught at Slade School, London, and continues to teach at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. Bhattacharjee led ‘Shomoy’, the influential genre-breaking group of alternative artists that appeared in the eighties. His works have been widely exhibited.
Swapan Chowdhury 1948
The political and cultural movements leading up to the Liberation War played an important role in Swapan Chowdhury’s life. In 1971, he organised and participated in art exhibitions in India and abroad, to uphold the cause of the war. He joined the Artists’ Association and went around refugee camps, singing and motivating the fighters. A prolific painter, Chowdhury began to shed the narrative over time, and emphasised on feelings, with forms becoming austere and simple. Chowdhury graduated from the Government Art Institute in Dhaka.
Syed Abdullah Khalid 1942-2017
In the seventies, a young sculptor was regularly seen near the arts faculty of Dhaka University, with a hammer and chisel in his hands, working away day and night on a life-size structure. Even as curious pedestrians, rickshaw pullers, and university students gazed up to see what he was doing, the sculptor religiously worked on his piece. For Syed Abdullah Khalid, the sculpture ‘Auparajeo Bangla’ (Unvanquished Bengal) was a labour of love. The experience of being close to the freedom fighters during the War of 1971, made him want to create an artwork that would symbolise the sacrifice for the independence struggle. Commissioned in 1973 at the Dhaka University premises, ‘Auparajeo Bangla’ was completed in 1979 on a meagre budget.
Although Khalid is remembered for this well-known public sculpture, he is responsible for many other works in cement, stone, fibreglass, ceramic and clay, as well as murals in pottery, metals or mosaic. A graduate of the College of Art and Crafts in Dhaka, Khalid received his master’s degree from the University of Chittagong. He received the Ekushey Padak in 2017, among other honours.
Syed Jahangir 1935 – 2018
Syed Jahangir travelled to the USA as a Ford Foundation Fellow, in the late fifties, where he became familiar with the works of American painters. The interconnectedness of humans and nature became a recurrent theme in his work. A tireless traveller through life with a keen eye for detail, his preference for blues and ochres lends an extraordinary richness to his singular brand of abstraction. An avid reader and conversationalist, Jahangir served briefly as departmental head at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy when he launched two important initiatives, a national mobile art exhibition and the Asian Art Biennale.
Jahangir graduated from the Government Art Institute in Dhaka. While a budding artist immersed in the search for self-identity, Jahangir developed lively communion and lasting bondage with other creative individuals in literary and cultural circles. His works have been widely exhibited. Jahangir received the Ekushey Padak (1985), among other honours and awards.
Tarun Ghosh 1953
Tarun Ghosh was one of the first students to enrol in the College of Art and Crafts, Dhaka, after the country’s independence. He received his masters from Baroda, India. There, he was greatly influenced by the free and spontaneous ways in which the Patuas worked. A prolific painter, art director and animator, Ghosh received acclaim for his series on the mythical character Behula and works on several other folk themes. He served as Keeper of the Bangladesh National Museum. Ghosh’s works have been widely exhibited.
Wakilur Rahman 1961
Painter, printmaker, educator and arts organiser Wakilur Rahman divides his time between Dhaka and Berlin. His works have been widely exhibited. His interest in Bengali calligraphy, especially in the play of word-forms, alphabet shapes, and the relationship between the sounds of the spoken words and their visual connotation, has led to a unique body of work.
Rahman graduated from the Government Art College and went on to receive a master’s degree from Beijing. Later he spent a significant time in Berlin. His awards include Norwegian International Print Triennale, Fredrikstad (1995), Agricola-Preis für Kunst und Wissenschaft, Glauchau, Germany (1996), AB Bank Award, National Exhibition, Dhaka, among others. Wakilur Rahman heads Kalakendra, a non-profit multidisciplinary art practice space in Dhaka.
Zainul Abedin 1914 – 1976
Zainul Abedin, reverently called the Shilpacharya or guru, is the architect of the modern art movement in Bangladesh, which began with the setting up of the Government Art Institute in Dhaka, in 1948. He was its founding principal and remained so until his retirement in 1967. A graduate of the Kolkata Art School, Abedin developed a social realist style, often focusing on struggle and suffering as in his acclaimed ‘Famine Sketches’, which powerfully portrayed the Bengal Famine of 1943-1944. He had an abiding interest in marginalised communities, painting, for example, the indigenous Santhal communities, or refugees in the Palestinian camps of Syria and Jordan. Abedin was engaged as an activist in both the Language Movement of 1952 and the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
Abedin sought to develop the country’s folk arts and crafts and with this end in view, he set up the Sonargaon Folk Arts and Crafts Foundation in 1975. The same year he founded the Zainul Sangrahashala in his hometown Mymensingh. Abedin was awarded an Honorary D Litt by the University of Delhi, India, and became National Professor in 1974, among many honours and awards. He received (posthumously) the Independence Day Award in 1977.
1948 – Government Institute of Art
1963 – East Pakistan/ Bangladesh College of Arts and Crafts; Government Art College
1983 – Institute of Fine Art, University of Dhaka
2008 – Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka