About the Sarbari Roy Chowdhury Foundation:
About Sarbari Roy Chowdhury:
Born in 1933, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury first came to Kolkata after leaving East Bengal at the age of 17. Initially self-taught, his talent was recognised by the master sculptor Prodosh das Gupta who became his Guru. From 1951 he studied under das Gupta’s guidance at the Government College of Arts and Crafts in Kolkata. He furthered his studies at Baroda University. In 1962, on an Italian Governmental Scholarship, he studied sculpture at the Academia di Belle Arti in Florence. Meeting a range of European artists there allowed him to develop his style through the influence of artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and Marino Marini.
His learning and artistic development was closely overseen by Marini and Moore who taught him to capture the human form in an abstract manner.
Henry Moore praised his talent and when visiting Much Hadham in the UK, Moore purchased the aspiring sculptor’s work. Giacometti too purchased the artist’s work during Sarbari’s visit to Paris.
At the end of this fruitful phase of his career, he settled down in Shantiniketan and began teaching at Tagore’s Kala Bhavan in 1969. At this time he was already viewed as one of the finest sculptors of his generation. Although he was honoured to receive an invitation to teach at Kala Bhavan from the renowned sculptors Ramkinkar Baij and Binod Behari Mukhopaddhaya, he was reluctant to take any academic position thinking it would stifle his creative spirit. His teaching methods were highly individual. Appreciating and encouraging many of his student’s achievements, he supported and helped them to find their own style. During this time he brought about many changes at Kala Bhavan; he was the first sculptor to introduce bronze casting to the university and one of the first initiators for the Arts Fair in Shantiniketan, which is still held annually.
While studying in Baroda in the early 1950s, Sarbari started collecting 78rpm records from antique markets. Indian classical music became his passion, and over his lifetime he accumulated one of the most famous and extensive collections of classical music, dating back to the origins of recorded music in India. His collection of Classical music is today archived for musicians and music appreciators. Many great music archives have benefited from his contributions.
Like his art, his interest for music was authentic in style, non-commercial, pure and discerning. Some musicians he constantly spoke of with complete admiration were Zorahbai Agrawali and Ustad Faiyaz Khan. The obsession to discover more musicians and their distinct personalities along with the interest for meeting these musicians became increasingly important to him. He had a very close relation to Mallikarjun Mansoor and he loved him like his own brother. Several times when Mansoorji came to Bengal to perform, he chose to stay with Sarbari, they spoke of music and Mansoorji would sing for him.
His intimacy with these musicians became very strong. Among them were Siddeshwari Devi, Kesarbai Kerkar, Hirabai Barodekar, Hafiz Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Vilayat Khan, Ravi Shankar and many more. Spending time with these musicians he was given hours to sit and create their portraits, which today are seen as some of his most recognised pieces.
On the occasion he sat with Ali Akbar Khan for days at a time, he continually tried to capture the concentrated appearance he admired so much of the Ustadji’s face when he played his instrument. It was only on the fifth day when his late son Dhyanesh Khan was playing Sarod at Ustadji’s feet that he took the instrument and began playing. His face assumed the position that Sarbari wanted to capture so badly. Sarbari asked with permission for him to play for one hour, he did, and he had his sculpture.
Sarbari as a man was simple in nature. He possessed a natural style of rich artistic caliber. He never regarded himself as a great contributor to the arts. He was an extremely humble man. He was positive and warm toward people, balanced and non-judgmental. He spoke very little when spoken to but his expressions were unpretentious, deep and specific. Whenever he was asked to comment about his work, he would respond, “What shall I say, I’m still searching, my knowledge is still very shallow and I’m still learning”.
To give an insight into the artist's mind, he once stated:
I am convinced that creation occurs in a state of pain, and I always strive to capture and preserve it in my work. Pain, like music, touches the soul and the heart and transforms an intellectual perception into an experience. An artist must live on the edge of that anguish at all times to render it in his creation. Music moves me, and its reaction in my subconscious drives my creative activity.
His alternative attire reflected his persona - unforced, organic and natural, an individual style with unique taste that revealed a joyful sense of humour. Fond of all Gods and Goddess he was a spiritual man, which he inherited from his father, however, his visions were his own and he wasn’t rigid about religion or strict about enforcing his values onto his family or expecting them to follow in his footsteps.
Sarbari’s name has become legend, and his contributions will remain timeless. His spirit will live amongst his family and friends, and the people who knew him personally. In conclusion, his words best summarise what he did with all his heart:
"I believe that every artist’s source of inspiration is Adirasa. That may be the reason why my creation is inspired by the subtle beauty of the human body. I seek forms in that contain rhythmical lines similar to what I find in classical music. Through all my years of work I have tried to create visual music through my sculpture."
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