Finding the best of Basu was challenging: portraitist

— Photo: PTI / Swapan Mahapatra A pavement artist gives final touches to a pencil sketch of late CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu beside another sketch of cricketer Sourav Ganguly in Kolkata on Wednesday.

By Ananya Dutta
The Hindu, 8th July, 2010

It took artist Wasim Kapoor a three-month search through newspaper clippings, magazine photographs and promotional literature to find the perfect photograph of Jyoti Basu.

The photograph will be transferred to a 7'X4' canvas that will be unveiled in the West Bengal Assembly on Thursday, the occasion of the veteran Marxist leader's 96th birth anniversary.

“I needed a picture of him standing, but not one in which he was making a dramatic gesture with his arms outstretched. Those are better suited for sculptures; paintings need more subtlety,” Mr. Kapoor told The Hindu on Wednesday.

Interestingly, the picture finally selected was one of Mr. Basu and Prime Minster Manmohan Singh that appeared in The Hindu.

“The photograph — a frontal shot of JyotiBabu — was ideal for the dimensions of the canvas, but he looked too static in it. To capture the dynamism of the charismatic political leader, I made him turn slightly to the left and added a brush of motion to his dhoti — as if he is just about to walk.”

The painting, commissioned by the Assembly, was two-and-half months in the making. The slight angle difference between the photograph and the portrait nearly led to a last-minute catastrophe.

“The painting was ready, it had been signed and reviewed by several of my peers, but I was not fully satisfied. And a day before the painting was to be delivered, I realised that the angle of the shoes in the portrait was not right,” Mr. Kapoor said.

While the shoes in the photograph were pointing straight, the ones in the painting had to be aligned differently. Immediately, someone was sent to the shoemakers nearby a find a similar pair. A family member was asked to wear the shoes and pose at various angles, while the artist took pictures from his mobile phone camera.

Painting Mr. Basu was challenging, Mr. Kapoor admitted, even though he has painted portraits of several political personalities, including Parliamentarian Hiren Mukherjee and veteran Congressman from Bengal, Bhupendra Nath Bose, that hang in Parliament.

“First, there is the persona of the subject, himself. Second, the portrait would hang in the Assembly that boasts of the works of renowned portraitists Atul Bose and J. P. Ganguly. And finally, there is the expectation of the work being judged not only as a likeness of Jyoti Babu, but also for its artistic merit.”

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