Ganesh Pyne: An 'introvert' whose dark art was 'ahead of his time'

Ganesh Pyne, who died Tuesday at age 76, was an artist who kept largely to himself and was rarely prolific, yet described by his contemporaries as one ahead of his time.

"He was an imaginative painter who was much ahead of his time," says artist Manu Parekh, who was a fellow member at the Society of Contemporary Artists. Pyne had joined in 1963; Parekh five years later. "He was very original with his technique. He had created a world of his own and remained there," adds Parekh, recalling his last meeting with Pyne in Kolkata almost 20 years ago.

Death was one of his recurring themes. Born in Kolkata in 1937, Pyne often shared his memories of the 1946 Kolkata riots with friends, and the experience of the riots, his first encounter with death on such a scale, often reflected in his art, stark and brooding, with motifs such as boats and bone, dark doors and other debris.

At his cremation, Rakhi Sarkar, director of Centre of International Modern Art, Kolkata, noted this was his final encounter with death. "He was always discovering darkness," she says.

A graduate from Government College of Art and Craft, Kolkata, Pyne spent the early '60s sketching for animated films made at Mandar Mullick's studio. "Imagery drawn by him in that period was to influence him forever. His had the finest jottings, from which he conceptualised his work," says Sarkar, who organised several exhibitions of the artist and published books on him

Sarkar recalls their first extensive meeting in 1985-86, when she was working on a show that featured his works. "He was an introvert and not interested in publicity. He did not like explaining his art to people," says Sarkar.

He shied away from solos for years, preferring to be in group shows. His first solo was at The Village Gallery in Delhi after he had turned 50. Sarkar recalls that it was an article in the 1970s in a Mumbai magazine, where M F Husain appreciated his work, that first brought Pyne into the limelight.

A watercolourist during the initial years, he dabbled with gouache and eventually found his calling in tempera. He was influenced by brothers Abanindranath and Gaganendranath Tagore as well as Rembrandt. A cinema buff, he borrowed from Walt Disney as well as Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. "He would have been a writer if not an artist. He wrote in such crisp, contemporary Bengali," says Sarkar.

While his work fetched enormous money, Pyne was not one who followed prices. "He did not like coming for exhibition openings. Neither was he very prolific. Before the art slump five or six years ago, it was very difficult to get his work in the market, even if you had money," says Vikram Bachhawat, director of Aakriti Gallery, Kolkata.

Pyne is survived by his wife, stepson, daughter-in-law and a


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