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Significant Indian Paintings Significant Indian Paintings PROF. SANAT CHATTERJEE (B. 1935)
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Acquired directly from the artist in the 1980’s
Important Private Collection, Allahabad
One of the last living legends of the Bengal School of Art, Prof. Sanat Kumar Chatterjee is both an accomplished sculptor and painter. Born in 1935 at Lucknow to Nirmal Krishnan and Durga Devi, he showed a penchant for art quite early in life. For fourteen long years, Chatterjee trained under the erudite guidance of Asit Kumar Haldar and Kshitindranath Majumdar the noted exponents of Bengal School. Over the years he gradually developed his own vocabulary with a characteristic aptitude in defining minute detailing that makes his work stand out in its exclusivity.
The present work, a watercolour on paper, represents Shiva dancing the Tandava after the humiliating episode of Dakshajagya, wherein King Dakshya insults his daughter Sati by not inviting her husband Shiva to attend the ceremonial yagna and instead abused him as a charlatan. Unable to bear this rebuff Sati immolated herself in the sacrificial pyre, leaving an inconsolable Shiva. Igniting with fiery temper his insane ‘Dance of Destruction’, the Tandava, threatened the world with destruction. Chatterjee does true justice to this extremely emotive subject, capturing in minuscule detail the grandeur of Shiva dancing on a many-headed snake of wisdom with the lifeless body of Sati on his lap. In one hand he holds a conch that is usually blown at the beginning of a duel thereby signifying the beginning of his Tandava. In the other hand he clutches an oyster with a necklace of pearl hanging from it. Pearl is a symbol of wisdom and this guides our understanding of Chatterjee’s re-interpretation of the subject of Shiva Tandava. For here he represents a more composed Shiva, enamored by the snakes of wisdom, coming to terms with his grief at the end of the Tandav. He is surrounded by the gushing spray of water arising from a violent sea from the depths of Vishnu’s Vaikunth to claim the mortal remains of Sati. Thus wisdom prevails over the bereavement.