The 42nd death anniversary of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin will be observed today.
Different cultural and arts organisations, including Dhaka University’s fine arts faculty which was founded by the master artist in 1948 as an art institute, will pay respect to the artist by placing flowers at his grave beside the Dhaka University Central Mosque.
Born in Kishoreganj on December 29, 1914, Zainul is a pioneer of modern fine arts practices in the country.
A graduate of Calcutta Government Art School, Zainul is credited for reshaping the fine arts arena of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) through his works and as an fine arts academic.
Zainul came into prominence as an artist before the Partition. His sketches of the Bengal famine in 1943 brought him to limelight and earned him wide recognition.
Those famine sketches, done in black ink on cheap brown paper, are still regarded as a testament to the starving and dying masses on the streets of Kolkata.
After the partition in 1947, the artist left Calcutta, where he was a faculty at Government Art School and settled in Dhaka. Next year, Zainul pioneered the establishment of Dhaka Art Institute. He became the principal of the institute in 1949 and it became the hub of fine arts practices in the then East Pakistan.
Zainul took care to juxtapose traditional ways and styles of fine arts and western ones in the institute. He patronised traditional crafts and paintings at every festival the institute held.
Zainul also collected a large number of traditional crafts, ceramic works, nakshi kanthas and preserved them.
In 1959, Zainul was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the highest government honour, by the Pakistan government.
He willingly went into retirement from Dhaka Art Institute in 1967 and was conferred the honorary title Shilpacharya (great master of fine arts) by the institute.
In 1970, Zainul painted a 65-foot narrative scroll titled ‘Nabanna’ depicting the rural Bengal and another 29-foot scroll titled ‘Manpura’ depicting the effects 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 Doctor of Letters, or DLitt, from Delhi University. He was made a 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 master artist died on May 28, 1976 after suffering from lung cancer for few years.
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