Born: 11 June 1937
Died: 12 March 2013

Ganesh Pyne - Paintings


Arguably one of the more enigmatic figures in the Indian art scene, Ganesh Pyne has created his own universe. He was born on June 11, 1937 in Kolkata, West Bengal. One gets the distinct feeling that he is not interested in the immediate moment or the everyday reality that surrounds him. He has often said that he sees a parallel world unfolding itself, “In my mind’s eye, I see things in my own way. I carry my own world within me. And often this world runs parallel to the world of reality in which I live. My inner world is rooted in my childhood. It has been nourished by my childhood associations.” An air of sadness envelops him. One wonders at the deep sense of loss that makes him talk so wistfully. Pyne never forgets the evanescence of life and the knowledge that death is ever-present. Feeling blue is a way of life with him and it is understandable when one gets to know his childhood and youth. He seemed to have had more than the ordinary share of traumas in his childhood.

At the age of four, Pyne joined the infant class of City Collegiate School where he remained until his matriculation. Diverse influence shaped him in his growing years. But the person who coloured the deepest core of his being is his grandmother, Nandarani. She had a wonderful gift of imagination and was born a raconteur. Pyne remembers her turning a mundane meal into a marvelous landscape. In an interview many years ago, Pyne admitted that though he grew up with all the care and affection from his family, he always had the feeling that he was unloved and his only sanctuary was his grandmother. In 1952, when he was 15, he saw a major exhibition of Abanindranath Tagore’s works mounted at the Indian Museum.

Ganesh Pyne - Artworks

This was a revelation to him. It was his first exposure directly to a major artist’s work and Pyne was inspired by Abanindranath’s way of seeing life and nature. So the boyhood years came to a close. After finishing his intermediate examination, Pyne decided that he was not going to pursue academic studies and that he was ready for bigger things. The family seniors did not agree with Pyne’s plan as they wanted him to qualify for something. Finally, his uncle, Manohar Pyne arranged for his nephew's admission to the Government Art College. Seeing his proficiency and innate inclination towards art, he was allowed to join in the second year of college. He joined the western painting department but his heart lay in the oriental painting department. He would watch carefully the students at work. At the same time, he studied the developments in western art carefully. Fairly early during his stint at the art college, Pyne had decided that he would chart his own course and not follow the dictates of any school or movement. He had been caught up with the idea of naturalism and his figuration was drawn from oriental art sources.

Ganesh Pyne - Artworks

The young artist used to work with watercolours in those days. A 1955 watercolour called ‘Winter’s Morning’ reveals the influence of Abanindranath Tagore quite strongly and it carries the first signs of an enormous talent that was bound to flower. He recalls Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru coming to an exhibition, standing before his painting, observing it closely. He was an incredibly shy artist and seeing this made him want to hide somewhere but Lady Ranu Mukherjee summoned him and introduced him to PM Nehru who shook hands with Pyne and spoke a few words of encouragement. His painting got the first prize and the audience was taken aback by his youth when he went up to receive the award. The prize was not entirely a surprise to his teachers as they had great expectations from him.

For some time since the late fifties, the artist had been attempting to form groups. The last major effort was when the Calcutta Group was formed in 1943. They were young painters and sculptors who wanted to chart a new way of doing things. But the group dispersed within a decade. In 1963, he became a member of the Society of Contemporary Artists. The 1960s was both the best and worst of times for Pyne. Released from the confines of art college, life in the wide world was full of contrasts. For someone who rejected academic studies, Pyne showed a remarkable predilection for words and ideas. He read voraciously and would attend different poetry-reading sessions. In fact, he is one of the very few artists in Bengal who could bridge the hiatus between the world of words and the world of images.

As far as his personal life was concerned, Pyne went on looking for a job and the replies to his applications were always predictably a regret letter. Finally, he applied for a job as a designer at Kesoram Cotton Mills and had been told that the job was his until one of the personal managers in the interview remarked “This job is not for the Nandalal Boses and Jamini Roys of this world”. Feeling a little blue, he took a tram home. He saw a little child on the way home carrying a paper bag full of some savories. He was touched by the way the child was protecting the precious possession. This made him make up his mind instantly. He was not going to look for a job anymore. He would nurture the gift that was his - his art. He carried on with this conquest and established himself as one of the most notable contemporary artists of Bengal School of Art whose dark imageries got him an international fame until he passed away from a heart attack on March 2013.

Text Reference:
Excerpts from the book Ganesh Pyne: His Life and Times by Ella Datta published by CIMA Pvt. Ltd. in 1998.


  • Raja Ravi Varma Award, Government of Kerala, 2011
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Indian Chamber of Commerce, 2012


  • Thirst of a Minstrel: The Life and Times of Ganesh Pyne
  • Ganesh Pyne: A Pilgrim in the Dominion of Shadows
  • Enchanted Space: The Private World of Ganesh Pyne
  • Ganesh Pyne: His Life and Times
  • Jottings as Paintings of Ganesh Pyne
  • Ganesh Pyne, His Mahabharata
  • Ganesh Pyne, A Retrospective
  • Jottings as Paintings of Ganesh Pyne
  • Visions: Paintings and Sculptures by Somnath Hore, Ganesh Pyne, Bikash Bhattacharjee and Jogen Chowdhury

Top 10 Auction Records

Title Price Realized
The Door, The Windows USD 471,965
The Swan USD 351,049
Untitled INR 23,025,000
Untitled (Laxmi Emerging from the Ocean) INR 23,725,000
The Masks USD 200,000
Swim USD 172,700
The Conversation USD 170,160
Abhimanyu USD 153,682
Untitled (Bir Bahadur) USD 134,500
Untitled USD 127,000