We all know that Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose was one of the best scientists India has ever produced. However, not all know that he was an avid art collector as well. And his house on APC Road, which he built in 1902, is a veritable treasure trove.
The house was declared a science heritage museum two years back, and since then restoration work has been going on. The non-profit organisation, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), dedicated to heritage awareness and conservation in India, has been entrusted with the task of restoring the works of art and books, and renovating the building.
Rare works of art
A few of the pieces of art are indeed rare. There is a 5 ft by 3 ft work by the famous Russian painter, Nicholas Roerich, one of the nine designated ‘national artists’ of India. Art experts say it is extremely rare to find a work by Roerich in Kolkata.
An extremely valuable set of paintings is also part of AJC Bose’s personal collection. It is a set of 21 murals on wooden panels, on which Nandalal Bose painted scenes from the Mahabharata. They were created in 1917-18, when he was at Bichitra, an art school run by the Tagore family. According to Raman Siva Kumar, Principal of Kala Bhavan at Visva Bharati University and one of the most eminent authorities on modern Bengali artists, these works of art based on the Mahabharata are of immense value, as they were the famous painter’s first major work with murals.
Mural by Nandalal Bose
These murals are actually scenes that the painter had copied from the Ajanta Caves. However, the originality of Bose is very much evident in the way they have been painted. They also display some Japanese influence. Sourindranath Kar helped him during these works.
There is another work by Nandalal Bose which has already been restored – a sketch of the famous theatre artist, Nati Binodini.
The works on canvas are being restored, no doubt. Necessary steps also need to be urgently taken to restore and preserve the walls of the house. The reason is that some pieces of art have been painted on the walls themselves, and damp has been soaking in through the walls over the years.
One such invaluable piece is the copy of Abanindranath Tagore’s ‘Bharat Mata’. It was painted by a Bihar-born painter named Ishwari Prasad Verma. He was a teacher at the Government School of Art and Craft in Kolkata.
Among other works of art at the house are two copies of the Vande Mataram flag created by Sister Nivedita in 1906. There are also some valuable pieces of sculpture, including a 11th-12th-century Aditya statue of black stone and several Buddha statues of different ages. The artistic taste of the scientist is also evident in the exquisite range of classy furniture that are kept there.
Bharat Mata by Abanindranath Tagore
A new address for art lovers
Most of the art are housed on the first floor. When the restoration work is completed, galleries would be created inside the heritage building to display the works of art.
Besides the works of art, the house built by AJC Bose of course contains many of the scientific instruments used by him, which are also being restored. If things go as planned, this four-storied building on 93 APC Road is on its way to becoming a cultural-scientific heritage structure.