Jamini Roy: Revisit the Famous Patua Artist of Modern India

Among the students of the Tagore family, Jamini Roy was a folk artist who embraced traditional Indian Art and established himself as one of the nine masters of India.

Jamini Roy

The quotes of Rabindranath Tagore reflect the depth of his life and art. In one such, he said,

“What is Art? It is the response of man’s creative soul to the call of real.”

He was definite with his words and so with his talent. Jamini Roy was one such student of his who is considered one of the pioneers of modern Indian art. The importance of the Tagore family in the history and making of India is crucial. We have seen the galleries of Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Amrita Sher-Gil, and Sunayani Devi, who were directly associated with this prominent family. Likewise, when it comes to classical folk art among the students of the Tagore family, Jamini Roy will reflect. A leading artist of Traditional Indian Art, he was known for his paintings that offered solace to viewers during a time of turmoil in history. With his idiom of expression borne out of Bengal folk painting, he brought a novel and daring direction to the art of colonial India, discarding both the dominant trends of his time; Western academicism, which was then insipid and decadent, and Neo-Bengal school, which tended to become cold and fragile. With time, his idea of art agelessness took on new significance in the context of the continuing search for roots by the present generation of artists.

About the Artist: Jamini Roy.

Jamini Roy was born in Beliatore village in the Bankura district, West Bengal in 1887 into a family of landowners belonging to the Kayastha community. He was raised in the middle class, and his appreciation of the arts played a central role in his life. At sixteen, he was sent to study at the Government College of Art in Kolkata. Abanindranath Tagore, the founder of the Bengal School, was the vice-principal. In 1908, he received his diploma in fine arts after being taught to paint in the prevailing academic tradition in which he drew classical nudes and painted in oils.

Eventually, he realized that he needed inspiration from his own culture, not from Western traditions, so he studied living folk and tribal art. As he stated,

“I am not bothered whether my paintings are good or bad. The only thing I care about is making my work stand out.”

Kalighat Pat, also known as Kalighat Painting, exhibited bold, sweeping brushstrokes. In 1921 and 1924, he began experimenting with Santhal dance as the starting point for his first period of impressionist landscapes and portraits.

Campus view of Government college of Art Kolkata
Campus view of Government college of Art Kolkata | Source: Collegedunia

Career and Achievements.

At the beginning of his career, Roy painted commissioned portraits. During the 1920s, he gave up commissioned portrait painting to explore his style. As a result of his academic Western training, Roy developed a unique style influenced by Bengali folk tradition. He did a fantastic job in Traditional Indian Art as a Patua artist. In his north Calcutta residence, he spent seven years solving problems related to developing his visual language based on certain principles. By combining the pictorial values of popular art with the conventionally pursued high art, level surface, central focus, and flattened out space, they succeeded in substituting a conventionally conceived high art. Even in his academic days, he gained attention for his penchant for a central focus on canvas, but it was only through repetitive exercises of nine successive steps that he mastered a painterly style entirely on a two-dimensional plane. As in the Kalighat Patas, many of his early works depict voluptuous forms modelled.

Due to his ability to produce 20,000 paintings in his lifetime, he is described as an art machine since he can crank out about ten masterpieces per day while maintaining his artistic goals. Despite being the foremost artist, he was always thronged by the rich. His respect for the middle class revealed his critical views; he believed that the ordinary person was more significant than the government since they were the voice of his art.

Jamini Roy Photograph
Jamini Roy, Photograph | Source: Archer Art Gallery

The three underlying goals of his work were to convey the simplicity of folk life. They were to make Indian art accessible to a more widespread section of society and to give Indian art its own identity. The first retrospective of Jamini paintings took place in Calcutta (Kolkata) British India Street in 1938. A large part of his clientele during the 1940s were middle-class Bengalis and Europeans. He exhibited in London in 1946, and New York in 1953. His achievements earned him the Padma Bhushan award in 1954. Many public and private collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, hold his paintings. He has exhibited extensively internationally. In his early years, he lived and worked in Kolkata.

Despite having experimented with Kalighat paintings when he was a child, he found they were no longer strictly patua. After that, he learned from village patuas. Consequently, he influenced his technique and subject matter with Bengali traditional art. He preferred to be known as a Patua.

Jamini Roy in his studio
Jamini Roy in his Studio | Source: DAG World

One of his works won a Viceroy gold medal at an exhibition all over India in 1934. Padma Bhushan was awarded to him by the Government of India in 1954, the third most prestigious civilian award. In 1955, he became the first Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi, India National Academy of Art. A report prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, was published in 1976. The Indian government declared his work to be one of the “Nine Masters“. His works are regarded as artistic and aesthetic treasures. During Roy’s 130th birthday celebration on 11 April 2017, Google India created a Google Doodle in his honour. The purpose of this article is to focus on a few paintings to honour his work in Traditional Indian Art.

Briefly Analysing Ten of the Jamini Roy Paintings.

1. Krishna and Balarama.

Balarama, who is the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu is the elder half-brother of Krishna. The endeavours of both brothers in Mathura were exceptionally well written in stories and tales. Depicting the Pathua style in this artwork, the artist displayed both of them with the same body styles differencing them only by colours. The divine eye structure that is also symmetrical is worth noticing. Balarama who is lightly coloured holds an arrow in his hand whereas Krishna holds a flute in his. The making of fish patterns below them depicts the Bengal style of art. The outside borders are correctly made with finishing, making it more eye-catching.

Krishna and Balarama Jamini Roy Paintings
Krishna and Balaram by Jamini Roy | Source: Christie’s

2. Untitled, Wedding Procession.

This Traditional Indian Artwork shows the wedding procession or Baraat of India where the Groom arrives bride’s home for marriage. It is made with natural red colours, prevalently used earlier, rejecting the colors from Western culture. The scenery also depicts the life of an ordinary man which was the artist’s favourite subject. It is the scene after marriage where the bride and groom are happily moving for stepping into their new life with all the blessings of the elders. The white borders used are known for the simplicity of the art.

Untitled Wedding Procession by Pathua artist Jamini Roy
Untitled (Wedding Procession) by Jamini Roy | Source: Artsy

3. Benaras Ghats.

The Banaras ghats are a place of beauty and calm. Many people wish they could live there forever. A divine and pure magic fill the air of Banaras. The welcoming Ganga river is known for its spiritual properties. This Jamini Roy painting depicts abstract art for the scenic beauty where one takes a holy bath in Ganga. Some people can be seen worshipping near the ghats. It is mesmerizing to see the colourful buildings and temples so close. With each colour filled with purity, the artist creates works of art that are truly captivating.

Benaras Ghats Jamini Roy Painting
Benaras Ghats by Jamini Roy | Source: MutualArt

4. Drummer With Santhals.

Santhals are the prominent tribes of Jharkhand, also found in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar. Their festivals and culture are admired and part of the rich heritage of India. The Santhal Rebellion was one very famous conflict in the history of India. The dance of Santhals is depicted here within this artwork, embracing the patua art form. The drummer has a dholak tied along with his neck and two ladies are seen here dancing. Their round biggish eyes with their symmetrical body are inspiring. The modest colours of the painting make them simple and inspiring. Though made with simple borders, they emphasize powerful emotions here.

Drummer with Santhals Jamini Roy art
Drummer with Santhals by Jamini Roy | Source: Artsy

5. Ramayana Series.

Roy’s Ramayana, spread over 17 canvases (each 106×76 cm), is his most famous work. Using earth, chalk powder, and vegetable colours instead of dyes, Roy created this Traditional Indian Art masterpiece under the patronage of Sarada Charan Das. A few years later, Roy also created individual replicas, each capturing a different moment from the entire series. The National Art Gallery of India has preserved some of these paintings, and you can see them in the Victoria Memorial Hall. He begins his Ramayana with Valmiki and finishes it with Sita’s Agnipariksha which brings him back to his hermitage. His 17 canvases are frequently characterized by flowers, landscapes, birds, and animals that are characteristics of the Bengal School of Art. This series explains the whole Ramayana tale in just 17 pictures. The emotions are correctly displayed even with modest design and paint. The artist’s lines are large, bold, and roundish, derived from clay images, that lead to complex moments that convey subtle yet powerful emotions. The entire “Ramayana” by Jamini Roy is on display at Sarada Charan Das’ residence “Rossogolla Bhavan” in Kolkata today, along with 8 other large originals. Today, the Das residence boasts one of the largest private collections of Jamini Roy paintings with 25 of the master’s originals.

Sita Ramayana Series by Jamini Roy
Sita, Ramayana Series by Jamini Roy | Source: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

6. Bride and Two Companions.

As Coates noted,

“Notice the majestic indigo of Bengal and how the bride’s hands are smeared with red sandal paste. At first glance, Roy’s choices of colors look purely decorative. Nearly everything he paints has a reason and a meaning.”

The picture is flat and heavily outline. A common theme in Roy’s work is his depiction of the traditional woman without artificial beauty and the mythological context that characterizes so much folk art. The Blue Color of the saree of the front lady with the lightly filled background colours is a takeaway here. The elongated eyes show the divine nature of the women here. This form of traditional Indian art is reviving the Indian culture through the ages.

Bride and Two Companions by Pathua Artist Jamini Roy
Bride and Two Companions by Jamini Roy | Source: Bonhams

7. Dual Cats With One Crayfish.

Coates wrote,

“Yet another new style, colors reduced in number and very restrained, an almost overwhelming sense of formality.”

The painting depicts two cats cradling a crayfish against a thatched background. It features turquoise blues, reds, and black. Throughout the artwork, the cats’ bodies are rendered in a surreal manner, and their eyes and whiskers have been highlighted. Two cats depict the sharing of one crayfish with one another.

Dual Cats with One Crayfish Jamini Roy art
Dual Cats with One Crayfish by Jamini Roy | Source: Bonhams

8. Black Horse.

This Traditional Indian Artwork depicts a black hose adorned with yellow and white patterns on a red background. A circular white wave pattern also surrounds the horse’s head. The symmetrical elongated eyes are simple yet expressive enough to convey strong emotions. Using Jamini’s folk art as a theme, the artist depicted inner beauty with simplicity and creativity.

Jamini Roy painting Black Horse
Black Horse by Jamini Roy | Source: Google Arts & Culture

9. Mother and Child.

This painting depicts a mother and her son, the son praying with his hands folded in prayer, and the mother placed a hand on the son’s head. Unlike his usual style, this painting features less dull colours. The subjects aren’t surrounded by motifs or borders and the lines aren’t very prominent. The elongated eyes of the lady are humbleness and love indication. Whereas the roundish eyes of the child are depicting the innocence of the child. Though simple and bold expressions, they are filled with emotions.

Mother and Child Jamini Roy art
Mother and Child by Jamini Roy | Source: Google Arts & Culture

10. Christ With Cross.

It evokes a familiar image of Christ. The artist portrays him as a man with robes, a beard, and a moustache who carries across. Three borders surround this image of Christ. This art form was created by him when he was inspired by Christianity and Western Culture. The elongated eyes of him are depicting the familiar style of the artist.

Christ with Cross by Jamini Roy
Christ with Cross by Jamini Roy | Source: Google Arts & Culture


The gallery of Jamini Roy consistently strives to present symmetrical folk art with simplicity and expressiveness. In his earlier work, done strictly under Western influence and largely in small copies of larger works, he was learning to use the tools of his craft. He was never quite at ease with them and could only learn to use them proficiently. It is here that we see him gradually breaking away and adopting a style of his own. There is an attempt in much Traditional Indian Art today to recover a national art that is free from the sophisticated tradition of other countries. Those attempting to revive Indian art are not recognized for its true significance. Revival is often perceived as simply a return to traditional methods.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is Jamini Roy style?

In the beginning, Jamini Roy mastered Kalighat Painting which exhibited bold, sweeping brushstrokes. As the western influence increased, the artist experimented to develop a new style, learned Bengali folk art and did a fantastic job as a Patua Artist.

What are the main characteristics of paintings of Jamini Roy?

Jamini Roy’s paintings have thick borders, bright colours, levelled surfaces, elongated eyes and an emphasis on lines and subject. He painted almost every scene from temple activities to Jesus to domestic lives.

How much does a Jamini Roy painting cost?

The most expensive Jamini Roy painting was worth Rs. 4.32 Crores or $583,784. The Untitled artwork was auctioned on October 13 by Saffron Art.

Who is the father of folk art in India?

Jamini Roy is popularly known as the father of folk art in India. The 20th-century artist travelled to the countryside of Bengal to collect folk paintings (pats) and learn from the folk artisans. Roy made a total of 20,000 paintings in his lifetime.

What is the meaning of folk art?

The definition of folk art is a visual form that is associated with the cultural heritage of a group or community. It may be decorative and contain recycled components.

What is Indian folk art?

In India, folk art is any culturally based art form handed down through generations. There are over 50 traditional folk and tribal art preserved for more than 3000 years.

What type of colours are used in folk painting?

Due to the preferred use of recycled components, most of the colours are extracted through natural means and are of yellow, red and green shades.


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