• Jogen Chowdhury
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Jogen Chowdhury

02 Apr, 2022 - 02 May, 2022

Woodcut is the oldest graphic technique in the history of art. It has been used extensively for the purpose of illustrations of books from ancient times. A huge influence of this medium was seen during the second half of the nineteenth century in Bengal. In those days, studios of graphic artists were to be found in the Chitpur area of the city of Kolkata. The artists would make blocks as per orders, for various book illustrations. Cross sections of Buxus species wood was engraved using handmade tools by the engravers. The woodcut blocks ranged from small ones to large varieties. Colour was dispersed on the blocks and then stamped as wood cut prints. As technology advanced with time, the usefulness of such wood cut prints reduced, but did not disappear altogether. This ancient technique, today, lives on in the art forms of fine art artists.

Prior to India’s independence, the ruling Britishers had realised the need for skilled craftsmen, artists and clerks. This led them to set up various art colleges in India. Trained in woodcut, engraving, lithograph and etching, the artists mostly joined jobs as illustrators of books. Though there were instances of some artists carrying out larger format wood cut work as wall hangings yet these were few and far between. These prints were a new addition to the popular art of Kalighat patchitras. Some of the illustrious wood cut artists of that era were Panchanan Karmakar, Hiralal Karmakar, Nafarchandra Bandopadhyay, Priyagopal Das, Trailokya Nath Das and many others. During the last decade of the nineteenth century, coloured lithographs became very popular in Kolkata. Apart from this, as half tone printing had emerged by then, black and white wood cut and engravings saw a waning demand. But the medium did not disappear altogether. Even today, block making by printers for printing upon sweet and saree boxes, may still be found in the Chitpur area. Though the commercial aspect of wood block printing became slowly bleak, it caught the fancy of fine art artists. By then, during the nineteenth century , European artists had widely begun using this medium to execute extraordinary paintings. Soon, It touched the Bengal art fraternity as well. Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij, Ramendranath Chakraborty, Chittaprosad Bhattacharya are well known luminaries of this art form. In later years, the art of Haren Das and Somenath Hore in wood cut, has mesmerised us. Artist Jogen Chowdhury is an eminent artist of this art form. With his foray, this Bengal art is now acclaimed internationally. Painting, sculpture, etching, lithography, Jogen Chowdhury has left his mark in contemporary Indian art. This collection of his wood cut paintings have been painstakingly collected over the last four years hoping that it will further enrich the long history of Indian wood cut prints.

--Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya

Art Curator