Somnath Hore was the quintessential Bengal artist deeply affected by the cataclysms that changed its history, such as the 1943 famine—a man-made crisis resulting in the death of two-three million people—and the 1946 Tebhaga peasant uprising.
A multifaceted artist who spent a lifetime exploring human suffering through his sketches, prints and sculptures, Somnath Hore was born in Chittagong in present-day Bangladesh in 1921.
Studying briefly at Government School of Art, Calcutta, in the mid-1940s, Hore trained under Zainul Abedin, and, later, under printmaker Saifuddin Ahmed. A participatory practice with fellow artists like Chittaprosad led to his intellectual growth. Hore’s early sketches were published in Janayuddha and People’s War, publications of the Communist Party; like many young men in the 1940s, Hore too joined the political party though he drifted away from it later.
Hore chose a distinctly formal, Western style of artmaking, distinguished by its strong linear quality, and guided by humanist concerns that foregrounded the indigent grappling with issues of survival. Distilled into iconic heads and emaciated bodies, his act of recovering the erased re-inscribed them into public memory. The anguished human form was reflected in Hore’s figuration through bold, minimal strokes enhanced by rough surfaces, slits and holes.
Over a thirty-year teaching career, Hore set up the printmaking department of Delhi Polytechnic in 1958. He joined Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, as head of its printmaking department in 1968, where his own practice received a boost under the guidance of Ramkinkar Baij and Benodebehari Mukherjee.
‘Violence and suffering, compassion and loneliness are inseparably linked in Somnath Hore’s vision of reality’
R. SIVA KUMAR
‘Manifestations VI, 20th Century Indian Art’
DAG, New Delhi, 2011
‘The Printed Picture: Four Centuries of Indian Printmaking’
DAG, New Delhi, 2012; Mumbai, 2016; alternate locations in Kolkata, 2013; Jaipur, 2017; Chandigarh, 2018
‘The Art of Bengal’
DAG, New Delhi, 2012; Mumbai, 2014; New York, 2016
‘Indian Abstracts: An Absence of Form'
DAG, New Delhi, 2014; Mumbai and New York, 2015
‘Manifestations X, 20th Century Indian Art’
DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2014
‘India Modern: Narratives from 20th Century Indian Art’
DAG, New York, Mumbai, New Delhi, 2015; Chandigarh, 2017
‘The Sixties Show’
DAG, Mumbai, 2020
‘Navrasa: The Nine Emotions of Art'
DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2020-21
‘Home is a Place / Interiority in Indian Art’
DAG, New Delhi, 2021
National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi
Baha’i Museum, New Delhi
Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata
Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai
Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh
Jane and Kito de Boer Collection, Dubai and London