Zainul Abedin (1917-1976)

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Zainul Abedin | Biography | Life | Paintings


According to Nazrul Islam, the great revolutionary poet of Bengal, the significance of Silpachmya Zainul Abedin lies not just in the value of his art, but also in his pioneering work in the development of modern art in the country. 

A sensitive artist of enormous power, Abedin had never considered art to be anything outside the domain of everyday life. He did not believe in the theory of ‘art for art’s sake’, nor did he support the philosophy of propaganda art. 

In his four decades of professional career, Abedin made relentless efforts towards the development of the total environment which makes possible the unrestrained pursuit of significant aesthetics as well as the ethics of art. 

If there was any politics for him, it was of the unpolitical individual; a mere artist, an artist with a strong social concern who has portrayed scenes of natural calamities and social exploitation. 

His early works depict the environment, the daily encounters with the poor and the suffering. 

The famine of 1943 deeply pained him and his longing for social justice found expression of human despair in the sketches of that nightmarish calamity. 

He recorded the tragic scenes around him with objectivity and great artistic power. According to Sarojini Naidu, Abedin’s depictions were more eloquent in their poignant appeal than the most impassioned words. 

His later works, (of the early 1970s) executed in Bangladesh, (he had become a citizen of erstwhile East Pakistan after partition), also possess the dynamic flow and power of his 1943 ink and brush sketches, perhaps even greater vitality. 

His monumental work Tidal Bore, Manipura Island— 1970, a 30 feet long scroll in ink and wash, depicts dead bodies heaped together—the rendering of an unprecedented cyclonic storm and tidal wave. “We Bengalis unite only in death”, he sadly remarked about this work.


Zainul Abedin: Great Masters of Bangladesh

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