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Somnath Hore was among the generation of great Bengali artists who saw their art utterly revolutionised by the events of his time. Artists like Chittaprasad, Debabrata Mukhopadhyay, Zainul Abedin and a whole generation of aspiring painters, poets, theatre activists, writers, and musicians dedicated their entire time and energy in redefining their role as artists in society.

Somnath Hore, A Tebhaga Procession, 1946

The memories of past nationalist upsurges, the experience of the Great Bengal Famine (1943), and the historic peasant struggle known as Tebhaga (1946) decisively shaped the life and art of many an artist and writer in 1940s and 1950s. The work they produced remains unmatched in terms of the energy, intensity and the forceful use of creative imagination in the wider interests of fellow human beings.


In December 1946, a young artist in Calcutta, Somnath Hore decided to travel to Rangpur in north Bengal to document the Tebhaga Movement as part of his artistic duty. His sketches and wood engravings of that time now are part of the great artistic heritage of Bengal and an important statement in the history of revolutionary art.

Debabrata Mukhopadhyay, Tebhaga

Forty six years after these sketches were originally made, the artist had an occasion to describe them thus (in the 1989 preface to his book): "These sketches were made when I was in my second year as a student at the Government Art College in Calcutta. One should not expect any artistic skill from them. Still, even today, my attachment to these drawings remain strong."

Somnath Hore, TEBHAGA: An Artist's Diary and Sketchbook

Translated from Bengali by Somnath Zutshi, with an introduction by Samik Bandyopadhyay

( Seagull Books, 26 Circus Avenue, Calcutta 700 017; xiii, 61 p., pb, Rs70.00; ISBN 81 704B 079 4

Tebhaga Sketches and Wood Engravings

Somnath Hore

Tebhaga Sketches

"In the winter of 1946, Somnath Hore, one of India's major painter-sculptors, was assigned by the Communist Party to document the Tebhaga movement in North Bengal.

"This was a movement of tenant cultivators who, led by the Party, were demanding a radical revision of the crop-sharing system so as to reduce the landlord's share of the produce from half to one-third.

"A young art student at the time, Hore witnessed the massive mobilization taking place in a network of villages, and captured the widespread spirit of peasant consciousness and militant solidarity, all the more remarkable at a time when communalism was rife in national politics.

"Somnath Hore's personal diary and sketches of the Tebhaga days are an unusual social document of a peasant movement open through the eyes of a committed artist. Closely involved in the struggle, the tebhaga experience has remained a source of inspiration for him. one can see in these sketches the rugged lines since transformed into sculptured forms, but charged with the same intensity of anguish and anger; and the seeds of the vision that infuses his work today."

Samik Bandypadhyay, art critic
from the blurb of TEBHAGA: An Artist's Diary and Sketchbook by Somnath Hore.

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