Jamini Roy

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1887
Precise DOB unknown: 
City of birth: 
Chhandar, Bengal
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1972
Precise date of death unknown: 
Location of death: 
Kolkata, India

Jamini Roy was a prolific painter of the twentieth century. His work is widely collected both in India and abroad. At the age of 16, he was sent to the Government Art School in Calcutta, receiving his Diploma in 1908. He was later to reject his formal, academic training as well as the style of the Bengali 'revivalist' movement and one of his teachers, Abanindranath Tagore. Instead, he took inspiration from indigenous Indian art, often described as 'folk' art. He was particularly drawn to Kalighat art and the Santhal people, often depicting Santhal dancers and drummers in his characteristic 'flat' style using a restricted palette of earthy colours. He experimented with techniques and materials, such as tempera, card, rush-matting and natural pigments. His obituary in The Times noted: ‘His studio was a place of pilgrimage for all interested in the artistic heritage of Bengal and in his own delightful person he typified a generation and a culture' (15/05/72).

The poet and editor M. J. Tambimuttu became interested in Roy's work in the mid-1940s. In correspondence, he expressed an interest in commissioning a monograph on Roy for his Editions Poetry London list, as well as in arranging an exhibition of his work in England (correspondence with Kurt Larisch, Tambimuttu archive, British Library). Roy's work was exhibited in London in 1947 (Burlington House) and in New York in 1953. He was awarded the Padma Bushan by the Indian Government in 1955. Roy was supported, collected and written about by William Archer, the Keeper of the Indian Section at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and also by Archer’s successor, John Conran Irwin. Irwin collaborated with the progressive poet Bishnu Dey to write the first biography of Roy. Irwin was also the executive secretary of the important exhibition at Burlington House, ‘The Arts of India and Pakistan’, in the winter of 1947-8, in which Roy’s work was included. William Archer made Roy’s work central to his book India and Modern Art (1959).


William Archer, E. M. Forster (visited an exhibition of Roy's work), John Conran Irwin, Abanindranath Tagore, M. J. Tambimuttu.

Burlington House, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Secondary works: 

Archer, William, India and Modern Art (London: Allen & Unwin, 1959)

Dey, Bishnu and Irwin, John, Jamini Roy (Calcutta: Indian Society of Oriental Art, 1944)

Jamini Roy (New Delhi: Lala Kali Akademi, 1973)

Milford, Mary E., 'A Modern Primitive', Horizon 10.59 (November 1944), pp. 338-42

Paintings of Jamini Roy, words by Sipra Chakravarty (Calcutta: Indian Museum, 1991)

Archive source: 

Jamini Roy material collected by William Archer, Mss Eur F236, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras