B. C. Sanyal
Born(1901-04-22)22 April 1901
Dibrugarh, Assam
Died9 January 2003(2003-01-09) (aged 101)
Other namesBhabesh Chandra Sanyal
Alma materGovernment College of Art & Craft, Kolkata
Occupation(s)painter, sculptor, Art teacher
Known forSculptures and Paintings
ChildrenAmba Sanyal

Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal commonly known as B. C. Sanyal (22 April 1901 – 9 August 2003), the doyen of modernism in Indian art, was an Indian painter and sculptor and an art teacher to three generations of artists. During his lifetime he not just saw the partition of the Indian subcontinent three times, 1905, 1947 and 1971, but also witnessed 20th century Indian art in all its phases.[1][2] His notable paintings include The flying scarecrow, Cow herd, Despair and Way to peace, which depicts Mahatma Gandhi with a Hindu and a Muslim child.[3]

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1984,[4] and India's highest award in visual arts, the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement by Lalit Kala Akademi, India's National Academy of Fine Arts in 1980.[5]

Early life and education

Born in 1901 in Dibrugarh in a Bengali Family, he witnessed the Partition of Bengal in 1905, while still a child. Though tragedy struck early, when he lost his father at six-year, and was brought up by his mother, who had penchant for making dolls, which shaped the sculptor in him.[2]

He later studied at Government College of Art & Craft (GCAC), Calcutta, where he was a student of teachers like Percy Brown and J.P. Ganguly.


In 1920, he joined the Serampore College of Art, where he spent the following six years practising and teaching painting and sculpture. During this period he has neither subscribed to the Bengal school nor sided with the Victorian academism, but evolved his own individualistic style, which got him noticed[6]

The turning point in his career however came in 1929, when he was commissioned by Punjabi firm, Krishna Plaster Works to go to Lahore to make a bust of recently martyred leader, Lala Lajpat Rai, ahead of Lahore Session of Indian National Congress. He stayed back as other commissions followed, and soon became vice-principal of the Mayo School of Arts, Lahore (now known as National College of Arts), which was earlier started by Lockwood Kipling (father of author Rudyard Kipling). Here two of his students Satish Gujral and Krishen Khanna went on to become prominent modernists of the post-independence period. He remained at Mayo till 1936, when he was forced to resign as the British Raj viewed him as a "trouble-maker".

Subsequently, he set up the Lahore College of Art in 1937,[7] a studio-cum-school, initially at the premises of the Forman Christian College, at the invitation of its first Indian principal, Dr. S.K. Dutta. The school was later formally inaugurated in a basement at the Dayal Singh Mansions, with an exhibition of prominent artists from Lahore, of the period. He continued to freelanced and taught here, till 1947.

After the partition of India, Sanyal and his wife Snelata, a ghazal singer and theatre person, moved to Delhi, where he stayed for the rest of his life. Here he set up base in the 26, Gole Market. This "refugee studio" soon became a hub for artists and students in Delhi, and later gallery 26. Soon it gave rise to the Delhi Shilpi Chakra (Delhi Sculptor Circle), which he founded along with a number of artist-friends (Dinkar Kowshik, K.S Kulkarni, Jaya Appasamy, Shankar Pillai, Kanwal Krishna, P.N Mago, etc.)[8] had an important influence on the contemporary art in the North India.[9][10] He showed at the Salon de Mai, Paris in 1949, and also participated in the Venice Biennale (1953); in the same year he joined as Professor and Head of the Department of Art, Delhi Polytechnic, Kashmiri Gate, (1953–1960), now upgraded to the College of Art.[7]

He also remained part of the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), and secretary of the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), India's National Academy of the Arts (1960–69) and later served as its vice-chairman. It was during his tenure at the LKA, strong foundation for the national body was laid and it also held its first triennial, now a permanent fixture.[3]

As an artist working with watercolours and oil paintings, his themes revolved around archetypal human struggles, deeply focussed on the economically deprived.[11] A number of his works are now part of the collection of National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.[12] His sculpture, The Veiled Figure, broke new grounds in sculpture as he portrayed the memory of his mother.[2]

He also acted in a film Dance of the Wind (1997).[13] He set up a cottage at Andretta, at foothills of Dhauladhar range in Himachal Pradesh, where he came close to Norah Richards.[14] Till late in his age he remained engaged in setting up the Andretta artists' resort and Nora Centre for the Arts at Andretta, near Palampur in Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh.,[15] and to collect funds for his project, he continued to exhibit and sell his works. He remained active till the end, and at 101 ventured into lithograph with considerable success at Atlier print shop in Delhi.[16]

The Government of India, issued a special postage stamp to commemorate his birth centenary in 2000,[3] while IGNCA, New Delhi in part of its celebrations, of his 100th birthday held a function on 22 April 2001, where an exhibition of tributes by over 170 artistes in various media was opened and a DVD on him along with Elizabeth Brunner, in Great Masters series was released[17][18]

He died on 9th January, 2003, in Nizamuddin East, New Delhi, after a brief illness at the age of 102, he was survived by his wife Snehlata and daughter Amba Sanyal, costume designer, while her husband KT Ravindran, is a noted architect and dean of Delhi's School of Planning and Architecture.[1] Amba Sanyal later received the 2008 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Costume Designing (theatre).[19]

Awards and recognition

He was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement by Lalit Kala Akademi, India's National Academy of Fine Arts in 1980, Padma Bhushan award in 1984 by Government of India, the honorary citizenship of Baltimore, USA in 1989,[2] Visva Bharati University's Gagan Abani Puraskar in 1993 and the Government of Assam's Sankar Dev award in 1999.


The B.C Sanyal Award has been instituted by the Delhi College of Art, New Delhi and confers awards on artists for their contribution to the field. Recipients of this award include:[20]


Further reading


  1. ^ a b "Doyen of Indian art B C Sanyal is no more". The Indian Express. 9 January 2003. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Sengupta, Ratnottama (9 January 2003). "B C Sanyal: Doyen of Indian art". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "B.C. Sanyal finds way to peace". The Tribune. 10 January 2003.
  4. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  5. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Main News". The Tribune (Chandigarh).
  6. ^ "Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal". Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Artist Bhavesh Chandra Sanyal passes away". India Today. 27 January 2003. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Bhabesh Chandra Sanyal - Modern Art-India". www.the-south-asian.com. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Art adda". The Indian Express. 22 February 2009.
  10. ^ "B.C. SANYAL (1902–2003): No more brush strokes." The Hindu. 13 January 2003. Archived from the original on 12 February 2003.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ "B.C. Sanyal dead". The Hindu. 10 January 2003. Archived from the original on 7 March 2003.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ Sanyal, Bhabesh C National Gallery of Modern Art.
  13. ^ B. C. Sanyal at IMDb
  14. ^ Andretta-A sanctuary of potters The Hindu, 30 July 2004.
  15. ^ ANDRETTA ARTISTS' VILLAGE Outlook Traveller.
  16. ^ Grand Old Man of Indian Art – B.C.Sanyal
  17. ^ B.C. Sanyal no more Archived 18 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine Newsletters, IGNCA, Vol. V November–December 2002.
  18. ^ Great Masters: BC Sanyal and Elizabeth Brunner Archived 24 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine IGNCA.
  19. ^ "AMBA SANYAL: Akademi Award: Allied Theatre Arts (Costume Designing)". Sangeet Natak Akademi.
  20. ^ IANS (17 January 2017). "Artists honoured with BC Sanyal Award". Business Standard. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  21. ^ "A modest and lovable artist". The Tribune. 12 February 2000.