Fading Away: A Tale of Two Artists

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay is an author and translator. His books include “14: Stories That Inspired Satyajit Ray”, “No Child’s Play” and “The House by the Lake”. Bhaskar is also the Founder of ArtSquare (www.artsquare.in) – India’s largest online art portal. Bhaskar lives in Bangalore with his wife Sweta and sons Ishaan and Emon.

Here he talks about two artists from different countries, styles and cultures united by one thing: an undying love for their art in the face of hardship.


Today, I am going to tell you two stories. These are stories about two artists who lived in two different parts of the world. And yet, their stories are remarkably similar and quite extraordinary.

The first artist was a man named Georges. He lived and worked in Belgium. A great fan of cinema, he started working as an illustrator at a young age and was soon noticed for his unique style. Eventually, he became an extremely popular artist, so much so that the fame that he once craved had become too demanding for him.

Towards the later part of his career, he was going through a bad phase in his personal as well as professional life. His marriage was in trouble, and whatever little sleep he would manage to get would be filled with nightmares of only white spaces, devoid of any other colours (a pretty scary nightmare for an artist!) Georges started seeing psychiatrists and they tried to help him, but no one could. Gradually, all he could see around him was white. He was losing his mind. A lot of people, including his doctors, advised him to give up working with colours. But Georges was no quitter, as is evident from a glimpse at his works. Under such difficult circumstances, he did something which only an artist of his calibre could do. He used the same whites that he saw all around himself to create a work of art which was to become and remain the most famous and personally liberating work in his career.

It is also, if you ask me, his most emotional work, in fact, his best work. We know that work as Tintin in Tibet, and the man behind it was Georges Prosper Remi, more popularly known as Hergé. Soon, Remi took control of his life and was completely cured.

Tintin in Tibet

The other artist I’m going to talk about is Binode Behari Mukherjee. He was born in Bengal and spent a good part of his life in Shantiniketan. He is widely considered one of the greatest Indian artists who ever lived, and his contribution to Indian modern art is acknowledged and highly respected by anyone related to art in this country. He was a master painter and a celebrated muralist. Here’s one of his untitled works:

BBM4

Look at the landscape – how immaculately it has been drawn! The undulating plains, the scarce vegetation, the arid sense of the locale – everything created by confident masterstrokes. The perspective, the distant fading horizon, the depth in the artwork is so real that it feels you are actually observing the landscape from a hillock. This is the work of a man who not only had superlative skills to recreate what he had seen, but who also was an extremely keen observer. I think you will all agree with that.

Now, Binode Behari Mukherjee was blind in one eye from birth. The other eye was severely myopic, and he lost this eye too at the age of 55. All the works of art you see above have been created by a man who was blind. I’ll leave you with that thought, and with an interesting anecdote. When he had completely lost his eyesight, he was once asked what he had to say about his blindness. His response was – “Blindness is a new feeling, a new experience, a new state of being.”

Do you know of any other people of this ilk who overcame great personal odds to create art? Share your thoughts with us in the comments space below.

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