Born: 18 October 1919
Died: 22 October 2008

Paritosh Sen - Paintings


A distinguished artist who established himself in the 1940’s, Paritosh Sen was born in 1919 in Dacca district, now in Bangladesh. There has been some confusion as in records, it shows 1918 as his year of birth but the artist himself has reason to believe it to be 1919. His father was a practicing Ayurvedic physician and twice married with many children. He spent his early days ins such a big joint family, comprising his elder brother’s and sister’s families, besides many other relatives. He had no meaningful sense of identification with this family. Rather a sort of alienation had overshadowed his boyhood. He did not find any source of pleasure in familial relationships or culture. No signs had there been in the house of any artistic activities except a few bright colored dolls and a few photographs of gods and goddesses, bound in cardboard. Says he, “In a word, the routine domestic life of Sen family had turned out to be quite dull and insipid save during marriage ceremonies or puja festivals. This dullness makes me so restless at times". This mental vacuum had ruffled his childhood days. Simultaneously, in him had slowly grown a sense of beauty too from his childhood. And it is in this innate sense that had made him feel enchanted and enthralled by others in his neighborhood - from the aesthetic sartorial skill of the tailor Hafez Mian, the painting skill of scene painter Jiten Gosai, the talent of fabricating imaginative stories by the dentist Akhtar Mian to the enormous Arjuna tree in his village stimulated Paritosh’s imagination in strange ways. The humanism of a low caste woman, her sense of duty and devotion to work too earned his deep respect. This psychological contradiction which might be conveniently termed as ‘Beltali-Zindabahar antinomy’ has shaped his sense of relaism and that un turn gas served as the edifice of his art. It was his love for and awareness of his own local that his painting had its genesis. In his search for style he embarked on his journey across the world, absorbing western modernism in the process and synthesizing it with the native tradition. In his own unique style that he envisaged, in its content and structure, has been reflected the essence of his locale in diverse, pulsating channels, to unfold the ‘local’ in multi-layers through the structuralism of ‘the global’, to analyze ‘the national’ in the light of ‘the international’.

At his time, the art scene in India particularly in Bengal was becoming increasingly restive and eventful. Despite a wide array of art schools in Bengal, Paritosh ran away at the age of 17 from home to study in Madras Art School. Indian art as a whole , during the volatile 1930’s and 40s played a major role in shaping young Paritosh’s vision. Art as practiced in the four corners of India, then as well as in the years that followed, was a picture of variety in unity though the unity was often missing to a large extent. His apprenticeship in Madras Art School, under Debiprasad Roychowdhury, taught him the prevalent trends in Indian art. The art of Paritosh Sen, from his art school period until the time of his departure for Paris in 1949, bears testimony to this futile struggle for artistic supremacy between the ne0-Indian style pioneered by Abanindranath and the Western Academic technique employed with Indian content.

Paritosh, at 22, was a founder member of a group of young Bengal painters collectively known as Calcutta Group and already a pioneer of modernity in Indian art. This group along with the Progressive Artists Group in Bombay played a key role in ushering Modernism into Indian Art. There was a buzz in the air for the contemporary youth to sympathize with the Communist ideals, more so among creative people. The themes of human emotion and sympathy for the downtrodden that recur in Paritosh Sen’s art can be traced back to his youth though he spent most of it outside Bengal. He got a teaching job in Indore soon after his graduation from Madras Art School and held it until 1949, the year he left for England and France. His association with Calcutta and the Calcutta Group was interspersed with the time spent elsewhere and played a crucial part in developing in him a critical faculty to combine with his emotional bent of mind. Sen took part in the first exhibition of the Calcutta Group held in 1935, along with six others, and in all subsequent exhibitions in Calcutta, Delhi and Bombay. After he returned to India, Paritosh survived on teaching jobs that allowed him to stay in Calcutta, from 1956 onwards. A closer and more direct involvement with the city developed, and only now could he witness the sufferings of the poor from within. His palette became passionately expressionistic with varying shades of raw umber and earthy brown. Masses of colour laid on the canvas with the cruel abandon of palette knife replaced the linear depiction of defined forms that resurfaced in his art at regular intervals. He had married in between and visited Europe, USA, Egypt and Mexico many times.

Paritosh Sen - Artworks

A prolific writer, Sen has published many works in both Bengali and in English, including a series of autobiographical vignettes titled 'Jindabahar Lane'. His works have been exhibited in India and internationally, in Paris, London, Germany, Tokyo and in the US. Paritosh Sen passed away in October 2008.

Text Reference:
An excerpt from the book Paritosh Sen IXth Decade, Artworld The Fine Art Gallery published by Neovision Publishers Pvt. Ltd in 2006
An excerpt from the book The Art and Life of Paritosh Sen, Galerie 88 in 2007


  • J.D. Rockefeller III Fund Fellowship, 1970-1971


  • Paritosh Sen: In Retrospect
  • Zindabahar
  • Art & Life of Paritosh Sen
  • Paritosh Sen IXth Decade
  • Fire and Other Images

Top 10 Auction Records

Title Price Realized
Ahmedabad Scene USD 84,000
Man on a Cane Chair USD 38,200
Untitled (Joueur de Flute) GBP 20,000
Holi USD 22,500
Women at a scared tank USD 20,400
Untitled GBP 17,500
Man Trying to hop into a ladies’ special USD 16,800
Woman Eating Bhutta USD 15,000
Woman reading a newspaper USD 13,608
Group of Three Untitled Works USD 12,000