The 106th birth anniversary of art maestro Zainul Abedin is being observed today (Tuesday).
The creative genius was born on December 29, 1914, in Kishoreganj and went on to become the man behind the establishment of the Faculty of Fine Arts of Dhaka University and the Folk Art Museum in Sonargaon, Narayanganj.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, his birth anniversary is being celebrated with a small number of programmes. Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts will arrange a virtual edition of Zainul Festival today.
The virtual event, including placing a floral wreath at the grave of the Shilpacharya by the Dhaka University vice-chancellor and faculty members at 10am followed by a virtual photography and art exhibition on the life and works of Zainul Abedin, was broadcast on the Fine Arts Faculty website www.fineart-du.com.
There will also be a virtual exhibition in collaboration with ARTCON in 3D Virtual Reality technology, featuring works by the prominent artists of the subcontinent along with the artists from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University.
Historically known for his sketches of Bengal famine in 1943, Zainul developed his passion for art in his childhood on the banks of Brahmaputra River.
He completed his graduation from the Government Art School, Kolkata in 1932. He left Kolkata and permanently returned to Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), his motherland, just after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
Zainul then actively worked behind the establishment of Dhaka Art Institute and became its principal in 1949. The institute later became today’s Faculty of Fine Arts.
The institute became the hub of fine arts practices in the then East Pakistan and actively participated in historical foundation events of independent Bangladesh such as the 1952 Language Movement and 1971 Liberation War under the artistic leadership of Zainul.
He willingly went on retirement from the Dhaka Art Institute in 1967 and was conferred the honorary title of Shilpacharya (great master of fine arts) by the institute.
Zainul received a two-year training from Slade School of Fine Art in London and began a new style of art called the 'Bengali style' featuring folk art forms with their geometric shapes including the usage of semi-abstract representation and primary colours.
However, he lacked the sense of perspective, realising the limitations of folk art, and went back to nature, rural life and the daily struggles of people to make art that would be realistic but modern in appearance, thus being the pioneer of modern artistic style in the subcontinent.
He visited Palestinian camps in Syria and Jordan in 1970 and made 60–70 paintings of the refugees there, adding just another example of his calibre as a modern, international artist.
Known for the simple yet majestic projection of natural and social hazards, Zainul painted the 1970 Bhola cyclone that devastated then East Pakistan, portraying the effect of the cyclone through his painting ‘Monpura’.
As a fond lover of folk arts, Zainul formed Charu O Karu Shilpi Sangram Parishad and also collected a large number of traditional crafts, ceramic works, and nakshi kanthas in his lifetime which he preserved through founding the Folk Art Museum at Sonargaon, Narayanganj in 1975.
He also founded the Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala, a gallery of his own works at the Shaheeb Quarter Park on the bank of Brahmaputra River in Mymensingh the same year.
“Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin has cemented his legacy as the greatest artist of Bangladesh who got himself ecologically balanced in riverine Bangladesh. He portrayed the nature of Bengal through his imaginative inner eyes that explored more than outer vision,” renowned art critic Moinuddin Khaled told UNB.
Further explaining with examples, he added, “Many of us know about the infamous 1943 famine in the greater Bengal which happened due to the heinous acts of the British government, and we know about the havoc of that period because of Zainul’s artworks which perfectly portrayed the social situation at that time.”
In 1973, Zainul received an honorary D.Litt from Delhi University. He was declared National Professor of Bangladesh in 1975.
NASA honored the iconic artist through naming a crater on the planet Mercury after the painter, called the 'Abedin Crater' in 2009.
Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin passed away on May 28, 1976 after suffering from lung cancer.