A detail of an undated work by Benode Behari Mukherjee, titled Reclining Man.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

After Sight

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of work by Indian artist Benode Behari Mukherjee (1904–1980) at the gallery’s London location. The first solo presentation in Europe devoted to Mukherjee, the exhibition will focus on the artist’s collages from the late 1950s and 1960s, after he lost his sight.

A pioneering Indian modernist, Mukherjee blended imagery and iconography from Indian life with a signature visual style influenced by Indian, East Asian, and Western art practices and traditions. Mukherjee studied with the celebrated artist Nandalal Bose as one of the first students at the renowned Kala Bhavana, the fine-arts institute founded by the poet Rabindranath Tagore at Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, West Bengal. The curriculum of Kala Bhavana was structured similarly to that of the German Bauhaus (Tagore travelled to Europe often, and he visited the Weimar Bauhaus in 1921), with students encouraged to explore form and style in an open manner with various mentors. Rather than depicting mythological or nationalistic imagery, common themes and subjects among Indian artists at this time, Mukherjee examined nature and his immediate surroundings. He created works in a variety of media, from graphite drawings to wall frescoes, all of which exhibit a deeply modernist yet highly individualistic and contextually specific sensibility towards form, color, and composition. As art historian Juliet Reynolds writes: ‘[Mukherjee’s] attempt… was to reconcile Indian folk and classical art with far-eastern calligraphic painting, European early-Renaissance conventions and modern idioms.’1

The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, who represents the estate of the artist. Several of the works on view will be on loan from the collection of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi.

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Image: Benode Behari Mukherjee, Reclining Man, 1957 (detail). © Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation. Photo by Nemai Ghosh

1Juliet Reynolds, ‘On a Wider Canvas’, India International Centre Quarterly (Winter 2006–Spring 2007), p. 60.

Dates
January 10February 22, 2020
Private view
Thursday, January 9, 6–8 PM
Artist
Benode Behari Mukherjee
exp		A photo of Benode Behari and Leela Mukherjee in 1978. Photo by Nemai Ghosh.

“We may say that art holds together the extremes of the visible and the invisible, the objective and the abstract by a kind of magnetic power.” —Benode Behari Mukherjee

 

Image above: Benode Behari and Leela Mukherjee, 1978. Photo by Nemai Ghosh. Courtesy Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation

A work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, titled Reclining Man, dated 1957.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Reclining Man, 1957
Collage on paper

7 1/2 x 9 inches (19.1 x 22.9 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/8 inches (57.4 x 41.7 cm)

A work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, titled 3 PM, dated 1965.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

3 PM, 1965
Collage on paper

7 1/2 x 10 inches (19.1 x 25.4 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/8 inches (57.4 x 41.7 cm)

This is the first solo exhibition in Europe of the work of one of India’s most celebrated modernists. His collages—part of the new aesthetic territory he embraced after losing his sight aged fifty-three—express rhythm and tension in new ways, furthering the artist’s approach to abstraction born of experience and contemplation.

A work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, titled Collage with Fish, dated 1958.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Collage with Fish, 1958
Collage on paper

7 4/5 x 9 4/5 inches (19.8 x 24.9 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/8 inches (57.4 x 41.7 cm)

An untitled work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, dated circa mid 1960.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled
Collage on paper

7 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches (19.1 x 26.7 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/8 inches (57.4 x 42 cm)

An untitled work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, dated 1959.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, 1959
Collage on paper

10 x 10 inches (25.4 x 25.4 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.5 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, dated circa early to mid 1970.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled
Collage on paper

16 1/2 x 25 7/8 inches (41.9 x 66 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 32 1/8 inches (57.4 x 81.5 cm)

Like Ruth Asawa, Mukherjee was a student of Bauhaus thinking thanks to his studies and subsequent teaching at the famous Kala Bhavana arts institute in Northeast India. WatchThe Inner Eye, a film about Mukherjee directed by his student, Satyajit Ray, in 1972.
(© 1972 Films Division, Government of India)

 

The ideas on which the school was founded—that art unfolds in a liberated, expanded territory connected with nature, experience, and wider cultural developments—were to change the course of Indian art.

An untitled work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

13 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches (34.3 x 24.1 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.5 x 42.4 cm)

A drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, titled Dancer, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Dancer, n.d.
Ink on paper

13 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches (34.3 x 24.1 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.4 x 42.4 cm)

A drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, titled Dancer, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Dancer, n.d.
Ink on paper

13 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches (34.3 x 24.1 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.4 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

11 x 15 inches (27.9 x 38.1 cm)
Framed: 16 3/4 x 22 5/8 inches (42.4 x 57.4 cm)

He created works in a variety of media, from graphite drawings to wall frescoes, all of which exhibit a deeply modernist yet highly individualistic and contextually specific sensibility towards form, color, and composition.

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

11 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches (29.2 x 29.2 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.4 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

11 x 7 1/2 inches (27.9 x 19.1 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.5 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled work on paper by Benode Behari Mukherjee, dated circa mid to late 1960.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, c. mid-late 1960
Lithograph

13 x 15 inches (33 x 38.1 cm)
Framed: 16 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches (42.3 x 57.6 cm)

“Blindness is a new feeling, a new experience, a new state of being.” —Benode Behari Mukherjee

An untitled lithograph by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Lithograph

12 3/8 x 16 3/4 inches (31.5 x 42.5 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 30 5/8 inches (57.5 x 77.8 cm)

A drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, titled Dancer, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Dancer, n.d.
Ink on paper

13 x 16 1/2 inches (33 x 41.9 cm)
Framed: 16 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches (42.3 x 57.5 cm)

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

14 x 10 inches (35.6 x 25.4 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.5 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Pastel on paper

12 1/2 x 10 1/5 inches (31.8 x 25.9 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 5/8 inches (57.4 x 42.3 cm)

“Blindness did not stop him from remaining creative, it helped him to draw on his inner resources more fully,” R. Siva Kumar writes. “The contemplative and recollective aspect of his work method came to the fore. Freed from the distraction of matching the image with reality visually it became possible to focus on the inner vision and its material actualisation, an important part of the creative process that usually goes unfocused…. His late works are therefore the products of a dialogue between inner vision and outer perception.”

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

13 x 8 inches (33 x 20.3 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.5 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

15 x 11 inches (38.1 x 27.9 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.4 x 42.5 cm)

An untitled lithograph by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Lithograph

9 x 9 inches (22.9 x 22.9 cm)
Framed: 16 3/4 x 22 5/8 inches (42.4 x 57.5 cm)

An untitled lithograph by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Lithograph

13 x 19 inches (33 x 48.3 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 30 3/4 inches (57.5 x 78.0 cm)

Mukherjee pursued what he once called “an artist’s ultimates,” seeking to know himself, respond to his environment, and share his work with others.

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

12 1/2 x 8 inches (31.8 x 20.3 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.4 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

11 x 7 1/2 inches (27.9 x 19.1 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.5 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled lithograph by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Lithograph

9 x 9 inches (22.9 x 22.9 cm)
Framed: 16 3/4 x 22 5/8 inches (42.4 x 57.5 cm)

An untitled lithograph by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Lithograph

13 x 19 inches (33 x 48.3 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 30 3/4 inches (57.5 x 78.0 cm)

Mukherjee pursued what he once called “an artist’s ultimates,” seeking to know himself, respond to his environment, and share his work with others.

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

12 1/2 x 8 inches (31.8 x 20.3 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.4 x 42.4 cm)

An untitled drawing by Benode Behari Mukherjee, not dated.

Benode Behari Mukherjee

Untitled, n.d.
Ink on paper

11 x 7 1/2 inches (27.9 x 19.1 cm)
Framed: 22 5/8 x 16 3/4 inches (57.5 x 42.4 cm)

A photo of Benode Behari with folded paper figures for a mural, in 1972. Photo by Nemai Ghosh.

Benode Behari with folded paper figures for mural, 1972. Photo by Nemai Ghosh, courtesy Mrinalini Mukherjee

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