The Story Of Indian Art #31: Somnath Hore

A look at the life and work of legendary Indian artist and sculptor Somnath Hore, whose art was inspired by historical events in 20th century Bengal.

Fact file:

Date of Birth: 1921
Place of Birth: Chittagong, Bangladesh
Date of Death: 2006
Place of Death: Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India
Profession: Sculptor and Printmaker

Somnath Hore

Legendary Indian sculptor, Somnath Hore

Did you know?

“Mother with Child”, a large sculpture that paid homage to the people’s struggle in Vietnam, was stolen from the Kala Bhavan soon after it was done and has never been traced since.

Mother and Child

Mother and Child by Somnath Hore

Portrait of Somnath Hore

Somnath Hore was born in a village called Barama in Chittagong in present day Bangladesh in 1921. He was very young when he started creating posters for the Communist party. The leader of the Communist party helped Hore get admitted into the Government College of Art & Craft.

Between the years 1954 to 1967, Hore handled a number of jobs in various capacities. From 1954 to 1958 he was a lecturer at the Indian College of Art and Draftsmanship in Kolkata. Thereafter, until 1967, he held posts such as the “in-charge of the Graphic section” at the Delhi College of Art, visiting faculty at the MS University in Baroda and the head of the Graphic Art department of Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati. In 1960, he became a member of the Society of Contemporary Artists.

From 1974, Hore began doing bronze sculptures. The anguished human form has widely been reflected in Hore’s figuration.


The reputed art historian R. Siva Kumar in the essay entitled Somnath Hore : A Reclusive Socialist and a Modernist Artist wrote, “We do not choose suffering, and we do not choose heroism. But suffering often compels us to be heroic. Somnath Hore (1921–2006) was an artist who led a quiet and heroic life. Quiet because he always kept himself away from the glare of the art world; and heroic because he chose to stand by the suffering and held steadfast to his political and thematic commitments even though he knew this meant trading a lonely path.

The Hanging by Somnath Hore

The Hanging by Somnath Hore

He kept himself away from the din of art not because art was a lesser passion for him but because life mattered more and art did not stand witness to human suffering, did not mean much to him. And human suffering was for him, as a Communist, not an existential predicament, into which we are all born (or a visitation or even a tool to know god as it was for Van Gogh), but something always socially engendered.”

In the same essay R. Siva Kumar writes, “The famine and the sharecropper’s revolt acquired an archetypal significance in Somnath Hore’s vision of reality. During these years there were a host of other tragic visitations: the communal riots, the Partition, the exodus of the religious minorities and the loss of home for millions, including Somnath. But none of them found a place in his work comparable to that of the famine and the peasant revolt, which were for him symbols of human condition and aspirations of those with whom he identified.

“Somnath Hore was more than an artist. He was a witness of the human drama but a witness with a skill that translated his witnessing into art. In an age when secularism, socialism and peace can be seen- or rubbished- as shibboleths, he knew them to be vital needs. In times when art can become a play-thing of drawing rooms and auction halls, he kept it close to its springs-his human sensibility.” – Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Telegraph

Click here for more of Somnath Hore’s art.

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.


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