Jamini Roy (1887-1972) is among the most significant and influential Indian artists of the 20th century. He enjoyed a great deal of respect and fame during his lifetime. His work is still held in high esteem in India and is achieving growing international renown. Roy received formal training at the Calcutta College of Art (also known as Government School of Art) where he learned academic methods then in vogue in the West, and achieved his early fame as a portrait painter in the European tradition. Eventually, however, the artist rejected these conventions to cultivate a personal painting style inspired largely by traditional Indian folk and village arts, particularly those of his native Bengal. Jamini Roy utilized his considerable skill and intelligence to create a body of work that resonates with the history of modern India. Thus, an exhibition and catalogue of works by Jamini Roy is a particularly appropriate way to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of Indian independence as a colony of the British Empire.
The majority of Roy's works in the Harn Museum's collection were donated to the University of Florida by Thomas and Laurina Needham of Jacksonville who first met the artist in 1953 while Mr. Needham served as head of the office of the United States Information Agency in Calcutta. Through many visits with Roy, a strong friendship ensued, and during their stay of several years in Calcutta they were able to assemble a fine representation of Roy's work along with many examples of Bengali folk art. The relationship between the Needhams and the University of Florida was nurtured by the first Director of the University Gallery, the late Indian art scholar Roy C. Craven, Jr. They collaborated on an exhibition of Roy's work from the Needham collection that was held at the University Gallery in 1971. It is undoubtedly due to Roy Craven's knowledge of Indian art and the friendship and respect established between the Needhams and the Cravens that led to the donation of much of the Needham collection to the University during the course of many years. The museum also extends its gratitude to guest scholar Dr. Marcella Sirhandi, Associate Professor of Art History, Oklahoma State University, who wrote an insightful essay about the artist that may be found in the exhibition catalogue.
Larry David Perkins
Curator of Collections