Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

Renowned Art Historian B.N. Goswamy Passes Away, Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Accidental art historian, as he fondly called himself, made a significant impact on the world of art with his path-breaking work on the Pahari style of paintings.
Art Historian B.N. Goswamy

Image Courtesy: MAP

New Delhi: Eminent art historian and Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee Brijinder Nath Goswamy, known as BNG in art circles, passed away in Chandigarh on Friday morning at the age of 90 due to prolonged illness, as reported by both The Indian Express and The Tribune.

Early Life and Career

Born on August 15, 1933, in Sargodha (now in Pakistan), BNG, an accidental art historian, as he fondly called himself, made a significant impact on the world of art with his path-breaking work on the Pahari style of paintings. 

In 1958, he left the prestigious civil services after less than three years to pursue a career in academics and research, inspired by a book on Kangra Valley paintings by M S Randhawa. He extensively delved into the social background of Kangra painting for his PhD, spending three years in the field, learning the Tankri Pahari script, and over the years, developed a paradigm of how to look at and painstakingly reconstruct family lineages and styles by correlating the inscriptions on the miniature paintings and pilgrim and land records.

Just like Indian music has gharanas, he began focusing on family styles, looking in detail for the technique, narratives, and composition.

In a previous interview with The Indian Express, he had said, “I taught myself the Pahari script so I could get a rounded view of the work I was doing. As a researcher and teacher, you have to go into the field, read, study, interact with people, learn new languages, and understand your roots. What’s most important is to have a richness of mind,” he had said.

Contributions to Art

Prof Goswamy authored more than 26 books, with his essay "Pahari Painting: The Family as the Basis of Style" challenging the conventional categorisation of miniatures based on the courts that commissioned them. 

His notable works include "The Spirit of Indian Painting," featuring 101 miniature masterpieces, and "Wonder of the Age, Master Painters of India, 1100-1900," an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York.

Last Lecture and Reflections:

In his final lecture on October 26 in Chandigarh, Prof Goswamy discussed his latest publication, "The India Cat: Stories, Paintings, Poetry and Proverbs," exploring the portrayal of cats in Indian art. He emphasised the importance of cultivating a generation sensitive to art, reflecting his belief in the highest aim of art as a means to enrich the mind.

According to The article published in The Tribune, Diwan Manna, Chairperson of Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, expressed deep sorrow at the loss, calling Prof Goswamy a colossal figure in the field of art worldwide. Manna highlighted Prof Goswamy's role in bringing people closer to Indian art through lectures and presentations.

Legacy and Achievements:

He bid adieu to the world on November 17, 2023, leaving behind an indelible mark on the world of art. A regular columnist for The Tribune, Prof Goswamy was a prolific author with over 20 books to his name. His rich legacy includes tracing the genealogy of renowned miniaturists and publishing works like "Painters at the Sikh Court" and "Essence of Indian Art." 

The void left by Prof Goswamy's departure is acknowledged in both publications, with The Tribune noting that emulating his accomplishments would be a tall order. His remarkable decision to leave the IAS to pursue a lifetime of research and academics is described as the stuff of fables, showcasing his passion and dedication to the world of art.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram