The 43rd 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, will pay respect to the artist by placing flowers at his grave beside the Dhaka University Central Mosque.
Born on December 29, 1914, in Kishoreganj of the then British India, Zainul Abedin grew up in a village of idyllic beauty on bank of the River Brahmaputra that fostered his imagination.
In 1933, the artist enrolled at Calcutta Government Art School. Later, he joined the faculty of the same institute after graduation.
The modern master came to the limelight and earned wide recognition for his sketches of the Bengal famine in 1943.
Known as Famine Sketches, these historically significant works done in black ink on cheap brown paper, are still regarded a testament to the starving and dying masses on the streets of the colonial Kolkata.
Immediately after the partition of India in 1947, the artist left Kolkata with some of his Muslim peers to permanently settle in Dhaka and helped give shape to the first modern art institution in the then East Pakistan. Zainul’s pioneering effort in establishing an art institute in Dhaka in 1948, which was named Dhaka Art Institute, left a lasting impact on the society as a whole.
Zainul became the principal of the institute at the beginning of 1949. The institute, now Faculty of Fine Arts of Dhaka University, became the hub of modern art practices in the then East Pakistan.
In 1959, Zainul was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the highest government honour, by the then 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 1969, Zainul painted a 65-foot long scroll titled ‘Nabanna’ depicting the rural Bengal and another 32-foot scroll titled ‘Manpura 70’, painted in 1973, recalling the effect of the devastating cyclone that hit the coastal areas of the country in 1970.
In 1971, Zainul formed Charu O Karu Shilpi Sangram Parishad to lend momentum to the political movement for autonomy and also renounced the title Hilal-e-Imtiaz as part of his protest against the oppressive rules of the then Pakistan junta.
In 1973, Zainul received an honorary D.Litt from Delhi University. He was made national professor in 1975.
In 1975, he founded the Folk Art Museum at Sonargaon in Narayanganj, which he planned since he had first begun to collect folk art and kanthas during his teaching years. In the same year, he established Zainul Abedin Sangrahashala, a gallery for permanent display of some of his works, in Mymensingh.
The master artist died on May 28, 1976 after suffering from lung cancer for few years. An array of the master’s works lies at the collection of Bangladesh National Museum.
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