The Famine of Bengal in 1943 stirred among the artists of Bengal a grave desire to explore a new art language, one that would justly express the social cataclysm of the time. This tumultuous event is what gave rise to the significant modern art group, the Calcutta Group, in 1943. In an attempt to break away from the romanticism prevalent amongst the earlier Bengal artists, they worked towards a language that was reflective of the impending change in the country. Paritosh Sen, in an interview with the French Consulate in Kolkata, evaluated the significance of the Calcutta Group’s contribution and said, “We, the members of the Calcutta Group, strongly felt the need to evolve a style of painting which would be commensurate with the prevailing reality. We researched our roots, gave a fresh look to our own heritage, had an equally good look at the revolutionary discoveries of modern European art and drew freely from all these sources. Within a short time we were able to produce a kind of art which was fresh, strong both in formal innovation, content and expression…Looking back I feel certain that the Calcutta Group and the Bombay Group played significant roles in the movement of modern Indian art.” 
The group held its first meeting at Prodosh Dasgupta’s studio at Rashbehari Avenue in South Calcutta, where they unanimously decided on the name, ‘Calcutta Group’. Soon, the meeting as well as studio place shifted to Subho Tagore’s house on SR Das Road. This is also where the group’s first exhibition was held in 1945. The members decided to expand to other parts of the country, and in the same year held the group’s first show in Bombay. Mulk Raj Anand was highly impressed by the artists’ talent and vigour. He believed that by questioning and reacting against the art language developed by their predecessors, this group and its members laid a strong foundation for a contemporary art movement. The Group also had a combined exhibition with the Progressive Artists Group in Kolkata in 1950.
An influential member of the Calcutta Group, Zainul Abedin’s documentation of the Bengal famine of 1943 is considered to be one of the most remarkable responses to the event. After the Partition in 1947, Abedin was involved in the Bangladesh liberation war movement and eventually came to be known as the founding father of Bangladeshi art. Another important element of this group’s relevance today is the inclusion of a woman sculptor, Kamala Dasgupta. At a time when women’s participation in groups was rare, Kamala Dasgupta, along with her husband, remained at the core of the Calcutta group.
The decade of the 1940s is considered significant due to the rising appreciation and understanding of a modern art movement in the country. Owing to the popularity and positive acclaim earned by the Calcutta Group in Calcutta as well as Bombay, the requirement and creation of exhibition spaces in Calcutta was looked into.
Even though the country was immersed in political turmoil at the time, the members of the group claimed to have never been drawn to the ideals of any political purpose as such. Instead, they believe that their work, collectively, resonated humanism. For instance, along with the powerful representations of the Bengal famine of 1943 and communal riots, Gopal Ghosh also managed to invoke a delicate sensibility with his landscapes. Prodosh Das Gupta sculpted his powerful human forms in bronze or stone; Paritosh Sen depicted the daily urban life with traces of cubism; Nirode Majumdar presented an amalgamation of European modernism and the pictorial tradition of Bengal while Gopal Ghosh showed mastery of the medium of watercolour. It was this fusion that really defined the group.
Towards the end of the ‘40s, the group’s activities and meetings reduced. The members eventually dispersed; some moved away for training, some experimented and developed different styles of art. Prodosh Dasgupta served as the Director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi from 1957 to 1970 and Nirode Mazumdar experimented with Tantrik symbols. Subho Tagore found his passion in designing while Prankrishna Pal worked with the Ashutosh Museum of Calcutta University. However, this group is still remembered as the initiative that inspired and spawned the numerous societies and groups dedicated to modern art in the following years.
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