An important artist..............whose work is characterised by a striking vitality and an expressionist style is Ram Kinkar. Ram Kinkar is notable also because he is the first modern sculptor of the 20th Century who was not restricted by the study of academic formulae. His output is characterised by a new treatment in the new materials that were at hand. Further, his work at Santiniketan was instrumental in guiding younger sculptors, especially in introducing abstraction and in creating an interest in open air monuments which had no official subject matter.
In a period when artists sought strength in belonging together Ram Kinkar built up a style that was individualistic and rooted in his own personality. His work has tremendous energy and a love of movement, his figures and forms are dynamic and early it is typical of Ram Kinkar that many of his works are out of doors, they belong to the wind and the soil and are part of the rugged beauty of nature. The work of some artists is informed by a sense of struggle. Even the finished compositions are restless, for apart from their own dynamism they seem to contain the questioning and striving of the artist. Ram Kinkar imparted this type of feeling to his work, for when through passion and effort his sculpture at last comes into being, it is a birth not of a complacent ideal but of a volatile entity with the accidental marks and vitality of life itself.
Ram Kinkar was born in a village near Bankura in 1910. He was educated at Bankura but moved to Santiniketan in 1925. The atmosphere in Santiniketan, its freedom from conventions, its closeness to nature, its catholicity of taste and humanity were ideal for Ram Kinkar's growth. First a student, he later became a member of the teaching staff at Kala Bhawan.
Ram Kinkar's works have a dual nature, firstly a structural core which is interior and organic and shows itself in the organization of forms. And secondly, an expressionistic quality which is baroque, buoyant and flowering. The surfaces of his sculpture and painting are always of interest.
Ram Kinkar worked with considerable power both as a sculptor and painter. As a Sculptor, his constructions in cement, stone and plaster achieved great strength with very limited technical means. In painting he worked in oils, gouache and water colour. Even the smallest drawings and etchings show an original vision and monumentality. Ram Kinkar's out-of-door sculptures are created on location and so grow out of their context. Each work seem to possess a latent energy and puts out some gesture, human, organic, and symbolic. The style ranges from naturalistic, romantic figures to completely abstract forms, the robust Santals living around Santiniketan were his models. Among his major works can be cited Santal Family, a rough textured group, its strong movement contrasting with the static landscape around it. This sculpture by the road carries with it the movement of the road. The figures possess the animation of primitive people. An early example of abstract composition is his cement design for a lamp done in 1941 and set in the garden of the Guest House at Santiniketan. The rhythms of the composition seem to repeat the main lines of the surrounding trees. Ram Kinkar is also a remarkable portraitist. One of his studies, a bust figure of a woman in bronze, now in the National Gallery of Modern Art, is rough textured and massive and bursting with contained power.
Though Ram Kinkar started painting in tempera and wash, he soon adopted other media more suited to his temperament. Oil and water colour gave him greater freedom and in these his style is both spontaneous and monumental. In oils he has painted both figurative and abstract themes. The figurative again including very perceptive portraits which combine an insight into the character of the sitter with a certain degree of stylization. (See Vinodini or Girl with Dog). His landscapes, water colour studies from rural life and drawings of animals are also of considerable interest. All his paintings show that his work is characteristically tonal and plastic, different from linear drawing that was then current.
Though Ram Kinkar belonged to the Santiniketan School, he like Binode Behari Mukherjee, shows the new directions this School put out in the 1930's and 40's. He was one of the first artists to create abstract compositions in both sculpture and painting in a way that was more consciously determined than the intuitively conceived works of Gaganendranath or Rabindranath. He was a modern romantic who adequately expressed the changing spirit of the times.
Ram Kinkar has stated that a work of art fulfils its own demand, it has no meaning other than its physical presence, it possesses above all a vitality of its own.
Ram Kinkar like some of the other artists of his day was conspicuously experimental and ecletic. His interests went beyond his chosen media, he often produced plays and greatly enjoyed poetry and music. His non-conformist casual way of life tended to isolate him to a certain degree from the painters of his time; for he was out going and even unpredictable. His work as a whole links the Santiniketan School to the more unconfined art of later times.