The characters of this Kalighat artist live in the modern world



The 42-year-old, who claims to be the last painter of the painting style, takes inspiration from contemporary subjects

Bhaskar Chitrakar, 42, claims to be the last of the Kalighat painters who formed the community around the Kalighat Kali Temple in the 19th century: “If you show me another person in my neighborhood who is engaged in art, I’ll give up on my job. “He could be right, because modern Kalighat paintings that are shown in popular online shops all bear his signature.

“Art is not for everyone. You have to be interested in art to learn art. I love my art more than my parents, ”says Mr. Chitrakar, who lives in a modest house in the neighborhood of Patua Para – near the Kalighat Temple and the residence of the West Bengal Prime Minister Mamata Banerjee The Hindu.

The central figures of a Kalighat painting are usually the Bengali babu and bibi (mostly depicted in comical situations) and the various Hindu gods and goddesses. “Traditionally, there have also been political presentations, but I try to stay away from politics because I live too close to a political figure,” says Chitrakar.

But it more than makes up for the lack of political representations with other contemporary issues – like COVID-19. He has so far painted about half a dozen paintings related to the pandemic. One of them shows Lord Shiva dressed in traditional Bengali clothing and thrusting his trident into the virus. Another shows goddess Kali targeting the virus (also dressed in traditional Bengali clothing) with light emerging from her third eye. Another shows wearing a mask babu flee from the virus.

Bhaskar Chitrakar

Bhaskar Chitrakar

Although his characters’ clothes are always traditional, their lifestyles are often modern. For example there is a babu surrounded by twitter birds; and there are also several representations of the babu and bibi Click on selfies. His creations include his version of the Statue of Liberty, which resembles a Hindu goddess, with one half of her face being white and the other half being black. This painting, created in response to the Black Lives Matter movement in America, was immediately purchased by an Indian collector living in Minneapolis.

“My art is my response to contemporary events; I think that’s what art is about. I read the newspaper every morning and get most of my ideas, ”says Mr. Chitrakar, who studied through Grade VII and was fascinated by idolatry for a while before learning Kalighat style painting from his grandfather and father. “I am the fourth generation artist and also the last,” he says.

Mr. Chitrakar makes eight to ten paintings every month – each time it takes about four days – and the majority of his buyers are Indians living abroad. When asked how exactly he feels when he finds that his works are being sold online at higher prices than he could have sold them, he says, “I don’t do this job for the money. I feel good that my work is selling because of the internet. I consider myself lucky. ”

And when asked how easy it is for him to think of ideas in these uncertain times when there was little news besides COVID-19, Mr. Chitrakar replied: my ideas. And as for COVID-19, do you think it will take forever? One day everything will be fine. ”


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