Lady with mirror

Lady with mirror
For Kaushlyadevi, Queen of Nadia State

by Hemendranath Majumdar (1894-1948)
circa 1940

Oil on canvas
43.7 x 31.9 in. (111 x 81 cm.)

Hemendranath had an inclination towards pictorial art since childhood and was a student at the Jubilee Art School – Calcutta. Joining the school was his way of defying authority and the necessity to follow one’s instincts rather than sticking to a specific movement or group. He took matters in his control and was one of the few artists of early twentieth century who enjoyed both monetary success and critical appreciation. In 1929, he founded the Indian Academy of Art at his residence in Kolkata and also started printing a tri-monthly art journal. Famous artists like Bhabani Charan Laha, Jogesh Chandra Seal, Jamini Roy and Atul Bose were actively involved in the Academy’s activities. His last work was to paint a mural to decorate the All India exhibition in 1947. He painted its panels with several scenes of the life in Bengal that he had experienced. This drained much of the artist’s health and he passed away after a year.

He became known in the elite circles due to his portraits of nubile, athletic young women in natural surroundings, almost like a pinup poster. His works evoked a certain sense of sexuality, eroticism and mysterious aura, typical through the medium of a female protagonist. He probably used his wife as a model for the portraits and thus a similarity can be observed in the faces of all his female paintings.