Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin’s birth centenary today

Monwarul Islam
Zainul Abedin

Zainul Abedin

Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin’s birth centenary will be observed today.
Different government and non-government institutions and socio-cultural organisations have taken elaborate programmes marking the day. Many of them began their programmes long ago to observe the birth centenary of the master artist.
Bangladesh National Museum will display 100 Zainul from its collection of 807 artworks of the pioneer of modern fine arts in Bangladesh. The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, will inaugurate the special exhibition at Nalinikanta Bhattashali Gallery of the museum at 4:00pm today.
Faculty of fine arts of Dhaka University have been observing the artist’s birth centenary with month-long programmes. Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and Bengal Foundation have been observing the birth centenary with year-long programmes.
Zainul Abedin was born on December 29, 1914 in Kishoreganj. Zainul developed passion for fine arts in his early teens.
Zainul enrolled at Kolkata Government Art School in 1932 and completed with distinction. He was the first Muslim student to obtain a first class first. Zainul joined the Art School as a lecturer even before completing his final year.
The master artist earned wide recognition and acclamation for his sketches of Bengal famine during the deadly famine in 1943. Done in black ink on cheap brown paper, the sketches were a testament to the starving and dying mass in the streets of Kolkata.
With those sketches, Zainul marked his point of departure and set himself as an artist for the mass.
The artist, however, had to leave Kolkata just after the partition in 1947 and he settled in Dhaka. In the next year, Zainul pioneered the establishment of an art institute in Dhaka, which was named Dhaka Art Institute.
Zainul became the principal of the institute at the beginning of 1949. The institute, now the Faculty of Fine Arts of Dhaka University, became the hub of fine arts practices in the then East Pakistan.
Zainul took care to juxtapose the traditional ways and styles of fine arts and western ones in the institute. He was always keen to patronise traditional crafts and paintings at every festival the institute held.
Zainul also collected large number of traditional crafts, ceramic works, nakshi kanthas and preserved them.
In 1959, Zainul was conferred with Hilal-E-Imtiaz, the highest government accord, by the Pakistan government. Among many other major achievements, Zainul worked as an instrumental figure in setting up fine arts department at Peshawar University in the then West Pakistan.
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.
In 1970, Zainul painted a 65 feet narrative scroll titled Nobanna depicting the rural Bengal and another 29 feet scroll titled Monpura depicting the effect of the devastating cyclone that hit the coastal areas of the country.
In 1971, Zainul formed Charu O Karu Shilpi Sangram Parishad and also repudiated Hilal-E-Imtiaz. In 1973, Zainul received an honorary D.Litt from Delhi University. He was declared national professor in 1975.
He founded the Folk Art Museum at Sonargaon in Narayanganj, and Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala, a gallery of his own works, in Mymensingh in 1975.
The versatile artist died on May 28, 1976 after suffering from lung cancer for few years.

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