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Quamrul Hassan - Bangladesh Modern Art Pioneer

Art History 101Rezaul HaqueComment

Quamrul Hassan (1921–1988) was a Bangladeshi artist widely considered one of the pioneers of Bangladesh’s modern art movement. Born in Kolkata, India, his fame as an artist in Bangladesh is perhaps only second to that of Zainul Abedin. He studied at the Government Institute of Arts, an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta, graduating in 1947. After the partition of India, the artist came to Dhaka and together with Zainul Abedin, established the Government Institute of Fine Arts (known today as The Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka). Quamrul Hassan helped create a unique figurative style, taking elements from folk and traditional art. For which he was known as 'Patua Quamrul Hassan.' In many ways, he invigorated the folk art tradition by incorporating modern ideas. A versatile artist working in many mediums, such as oil, gouache, watercolors, pastel, etching, pen and pencil. Using woodcuts for works that followed the famine of 1974, he showed his outrage with snakes, jackals, and owls to portray the evil of man.

Quamrul Hassan, Peacock and Parrot, 1976. image courtesy: Depart

Quamrul Hassan, Peacock and Parrot, 1976. image courtesy: Depart

His range of subject-matter wasn’t limited to politics, he’s also known for his colorful paintings of pristine rural Bangladesh. His reflected on the traditional rural society and its natural beauty through his portraits and sketches of men, women, and animals. But only by juxtaposing pristine rural Bangladesh with his fierce sketches of brutal leaders did he inspire a nation.

He was also sensitive to the plight of the rural women. His depiction of women emphasized the bond among them. He mixed romanticism with realism; the strong curved lines and the contrasted use of color makes his work sensuous, softening the harsh edges of reality.

Along with his formidable body of work in fine art, he was the designer of the national flag of Bangladesh, a red disc on a green field. The red disc represents the sun rising over Bengal, and the blood of those who died for Bangladesh's independence. The green field stands for the lush land.

Unable to sit idle, even with company he was known to doodle or sketch. For that we are grateful.