Bendre was born on 21 August 1910 in a Maharashtrian middle-class Brahmin family. His ancestors lived in Pune.
Grandfather left Pune and came to Indore and father Shridhar Balwant Bendre was a clerk in the office of the British Resident of Indore. Narayan was born in this family on 21 August 1910. In his father’s view, painting was a hobby of the rich, but his mother used to make many types of paintings and clay statues on the occasion of religious festivals. Child Bendre was interested in painting since childhood.
During his studies, he had passed the Bombay Arts-related Elementary and Intermediate examinations. On behalf of Indore State, he was provided free facility of education and art material to study art subject as per his interest in future and in 1929, Bendre was admitted to Indore Art School.
At that time, the head teacher of the art school was Shri Dattatreya Damodar Devlalikar. He kept his students busy in the morning, afternoon, evening and night in drawing external objects and places.
With this, they could understand the effects of colors changing in different types of light. Devlalikar sometimes used to organize exhibitions of famous painters so that students could get to know about the latest progress in art. All this art education was given on the method of London’s Royal Academy.
In 1930, Bendre, inspired by the fame of Ajanta, along with his three other companions set out to see Ajanta on bicycles: but the pictures of Ajanta could not impress his eyes accustomed to the Western style. Bendre was very sensitive to colors and now in his still life drawing class he applied patches of brown along with blue paint to a painting of a kerosene canister, and his guru Devlalikar predicted that this student would become a great Will become a colourist.
Before receiving a BA degree from Agra University in 1933 and a diploma from the Art School of Bombay in 1934, Bendre had painted his brother in the guise of a gypsy. The title of the painting was ‘Ghumakkad’. In 1934, this painting was placed in the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society where it received a lot of praise along with a silver medal. In this exhibition, one of Bendre’s scene paintings was awarded.
This incident gave Bendre self-confidence and he made painting the goal of his life. After this he never looked back and continued moving forward and organized exhibitions all over India.
In the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society in 1935, he received a silver medal for his painting “Street Attraction” as well as the Governor’s Award for ‘Photo-Composition and Visualization’.
He also depicted South India in his paintings. Happened . After this he started receiving many awards. Despite receiving several Calcutta gold medals as well as about 60 other awards, his ambition of the Bombay gold medal could not be fulfilled until 1941. He received this award for a series of paintings of scenes from Banaras.
In 1936, Bendre went to Kashmir with a friend and made a large number of sketches there, which were displayed in the annual exhibitions of Srinagar and Gulmarg.
He was the first artist from outside Kashmir whose work was accepted for display there. He was nominated a member of Kashmir Darshanarthi Sangh and worked there as an artist and journalist till 1939.
Whenever he got time, he also kept making sketches of Kashmir. But while living there, he started feeling cut off from the main stream of art movements going on in India, so in 1939 he left Kashmir and went to Bombay to try his luck in the film world.
Working in a film studio in Coimbatore opened his eyes and he left the job within a year. Meanwhile, in Madras, he met a young woman who became Bendre’s life partner after their marriage in 1942.
In 1941, he received the Gold Medal of the Bombay Art Society. In 1943, he organized a painting exhibition in Bombay and sold 37 of his paintings for Rs 19,000. In 1944, Indore Sahitya Sabha felicitated his artistic achievements and in 1946, the Art Society of India, Bombay awarded him the Patel Trophy for his painting titled Quit India. He was also elected its chairman.
In 1945, Bendre received an invitation from Shanti Niketan to work as a resident artist. There he worked with artists of different styles from Bombay and Indore. There he also came in contact with Nandlal Basu, Ramkinkar Vaiz and Vinod Bihari Mukherjee and was influenced by them.
The Santiniketan endeavor greatly benefited Bendre’s imagination, creativity and thinking powers and he understood the unity and completeness of the visual experience of art. On his return to Bombay, some of his friends advised him to go abroad. He left for America in June 1947.
Staying there for six months, he saw the works of famous artists in many museums and participated in graphic and ceramic workshops. In January 1948, an exhibition of his friends was held in New York in which 40 of his 42 paintings taken from India were sold. From here he reached London.
The world famous ‘Artist’ magazine here also published a picture of him praising him. This was the first honorable opportunity given by this magazine to an Indian artist. From there, Bendre went to visit the art galleries of Holland and Paris. At the same time, with the independence of India and the assassination of Gandhiji in January 1948, he lost interest in foreign countries. He felt immense joy and excitement when he set foot on the land of independent India in March 1948.
Bendre realized from his trip abroad that the main function of art is to satiate the hunger of the mind, the place of technical skill is secondary and depiction of objects is not the ultimate goal of the artist.
Therefore, distortion in art is inevitable and art is a part of the entire experience of life. Expressing these views, the exhibition he held in Bombay in 1949 was not successful because the art community here did not agree with his views.
In 1950, Bendre was appointed Reader of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Head of the Painting Department at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, where he got the opportunity to realize his ideas. He inspired his students to understand the vast nature of culture and assimilate it into their artistic personality. There he started the Baroda Group of Painters in 1956.
He spent most of his time in experimental work and was given the opportunity to choose the direction as per his interest. He led the students in a competitive manner. Organized their exhibitions, educational tours and other programs. This gave them self-confidence.
In 1959, Bendre was appointed to the post of Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. He remained in this post until his resignation in 1966. Here he played the successful role of a capable teacher and guidance teacher. He was happy that no student copied him. In Baroda too, Bendre kept doing new experiments in painting along with teaching.
In 1960 and 1962 he held exhibitions of his paintings in abstract style. In these he has tried to express his basic feelings in objective forms. In this he also took help from wealthism.
After this he started exploring the beauty of infinite forms of nature. During the same period, he also visited China, Japan, the Middle East and America and tried to understand the art traditions and people there.
After returning from America, he organized exhibitions in foreign countries like Czechoslovakia, Toronto, Yugoslavia, Poland etc. and in the metropolitan cities of India. In 1969, he was awarded the title of Padma Shri. In 1971, he was elected Chairman of the International Jury of the Second Triennale held in India and in 1974, he was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Fine Arts.
He received many medals and honors in the country and abroad. Indira Kala Sangeet University, Khairagarh (M.P.) awarded him the title of ‘D Lalit’ and honored him as a visiting professor. In 1982, he was given the Gaganendra-Avanindra Award by Indira Gandhi in the annual convocation of Shanti Niketan. 1992 | I became poor.
Initially Bendre worked in the European realistic method of shadow and light and showed attraction towards colors during his student days. His initial technique was a mixture of wash and gouache. Thereafter he worked in oil medium and gained proficiency.
During his stay in Kashmir, he tried sketching quickly in goulash and capturing the changing environment, light and colors. Due to the influence of Shantiniketan, he became a skilled teacher of drawing. After that, Bendre tried to work in every medium and technique and gain mastery over it.
In the beginning he was realistic. After that, with some changes in the Impressionist method, beautiful work was done. In his visualisations we find various examples of his practicality. In America, he learned graphic and ceramic work, but he mainly remained a master of paint painting. He considered Cubism to be a fundamental movement of the twentieth century.
Adapting the three-dimensional visual world to the two-dimensional plane of the picture, a convenient picture plan in which the artist’s personality is not involved. The emphasis on the structure of objects etc. had greatly influenced him. The spatial composition, simplicity and division of the picture plane into different areas of Indian miniature painting also seemed equally important to him.
Between 1950 and 1957, he experimented with the coordination of these two styles. After that he again did a two-dimensional drawing.
Bendre is unique as a painter. Their colors create a unique music. For this he has created new equations of colors. His color schemes and subjects are completely Indian. In creating creativity with colors, he is influenced by Indian sculpture rather than materialism.
The well-thought-out aesthetic scheme of colors in his paintings fascinates and there is a romantic feeling in them. There is a beautiful category of paintings made in this type of oil medium and this category alone is enough for Bendre’s fame.
For some time, Bendre had imagined strange effects and forms by spreading thin colors on the canvas under the influence of the unconscious and mixing them at various places, but this state of mind did not last long.
Bendre’s attraction towards abstraction was not permanent. His abstract art works have the elemental basis of Cubism as well as his specific method of applying colors has not been left out anywhere.
Regarding his experiments related to abstract art, Richard Botholomew says that for abstract art, an understanding of either design or color is essential, but Bendre has neither of the two. But the main reason for this is Bendre’s personality. He is determined and rejected technical formalism. Bendre sees his shapes as simple and clear.
He is considered a romanticist among modern painters. His female figures appear on the canvas like fools with long hair, ham, saree and long eyes. There is beauty in them, but there is no vibration.
He has mostly left out the depiction of lips and nostrils in the front face, hence most of the faces appear speechless. In the paintings we only experience the music of their colors, their arrangement, sweetness and softness.
There is also an allegation against Bendre that even after doing so many experiments, there is repetition in him, of mentioning certain types of topics and certain types of topics again and again.
Bendre has also been a successful teacher and among his prominent disciples, names of Jyoti Bhatt, Trilok Kaul, Shanti Dave, G.R. Santosh Ratan Paribhu, Vinod Shah, Vinod Patel, Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh and Himmatshah can be taken. Bendre spent the rest of his life in the East Bandra area of Bombay.
Bendre’s art is mainly influenced by Rajput and Mughal art, Bengal style, Chinese and Japanese painting methods have also left a deep impression; French artists have received rapid radiation from Gauguin and Miro and deep perception and penetrating vision from Cézanne.
Although he got inspiration from French art, he also considered Indian art to be rich enough and he incorporated the experiences gained from abroad in the characteristics of the art of his country.
In Bendre’s painting titled Sunflowers, materialistic and Fauvist influences have filtered in, due to which the transparency of the division of figures, the beauty of the basic shapes from the frontal perspective and the flat design of the picture and the attractiveness of the colors have become the main features of the picture.