GUWAHATI, May 29 - Eminent artist and sculptor Benu Mishra, who strode the State’s artistic arena like a colossus for five decades, passed away at his Kahilipara residence in the wee hours today. Misra who had been unwell for some time was rushed to a city hospital where he was declared brought dead.
Born in Barpeta to a respected family on November 27, 1939, Misra is credited with being one of the pioneers in shaping modern visual art in the State through his artistic vision and acumen. His forays into the world of art found expression in diverse forms of painting, sculpture, sketch, graphic design, and cartoons.
Misra, an alumnus of Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, was instrumental in founding the Gauhati Artists’ Guild in 1976 – the biggest platform for artists of the State. He remained its founder president during 1876-88.
Misra’s family shifted to Guwahati in 1946 in connection with his father’s posting and he was admitted into the Chenikuthi Primary School as a Class I student. He completed his school education from Kamrup Academy and Cotton Collegiate High School. It was his passion for colours and brush that saw the young artist leaving for Santiniketan in 1956 with the help of an Assam government scholarship.
Earlier, seeing his passion, his parents had enrolled him into the Guwahati Art School, but he yearned for more, and his learning experience at Santiniketan was a turning point in his life. He graduated with distinction in Fine Arts and Crafts from Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, where he had his tutelage under the likes of Ramkinkar Baij, Benode Behari Mukherjee and other stalwarts of Indian art.
Returning to Guwahati, he joined the Government School of Art and Crafts and also served the State government as Art Adviser and Senior Exhibition Officer till his retirement in 2002.
In an interview, Misra, while acknowledging the role of Santiniketan in “bridling my flighty thoughts and teaching me the grammar of art”, had said how he wanted to break the shackles of idealism maintained by the traditional Indian school.
The artist certainly was able to shrug off the school’s art principles and ensure that social reality became the leitmotif of his canvases.
Some of his acclaimed paintings include The Chair, Desk, Panicky, Portrait of a Friend, Death, Last Supper, Father and Son, The Cradle, Cityscape, Landscape, etc. He also set a very high aesthetic standard in the area of book cover designs and he truly mastered his craft, be it drawing and painting.
An excellent sculptor, Misra was also a pioneer in doing bronze sculptures. His 17-foot-tall bronze sculptures of Quit India movement martyrs Kanaklata and Mukunda Kakati – accomplished with artist Biren Singha in 2000 – still adorn the Gohpur police station campus.
The artist kept a low profile and his second solo art exhibition was at State Art Gallery in Guwahati in 1993. His first solo exhibition was at Kathmandu, Nepal, way back in 1964.
Among the awards and honours he received were Pranab Baruah Award (2003), Bishnu Rabha Award (2006), and Jivan Silpi Award (2016).
He leaves behind his wife, a son and two daughters.
His last rites were performed at Navagraha crematorium with full state honours. Before that his body was taken out in a decorated vehicle to the Artists’ Guild for enabling people to pay their last respects.
The artist’s residence at Kahilipara was visited by a large number of people from various walks of life, including the artist fraternity. An AASU delegation also visited his home and paid homage.
Governor Jagdish Mukhi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal were among many who condoled Misra’s death.
Various organisations, including Gauhati Artists’ Guild, Indian People’s Theatre Association, etc., have mourned Misra’s death, terming it as an irreparable loss to the State’s cultural spheres.
In a condolence message, the Gauhati Artists’ Guild recollected Misra’s long association with the organisation and how he painstakingly worked to make it a premier body engaged in the uplift of the State’s cultural world.
“With his death, an era has ended and the loss will be irreparable. He created a new trend through his ingenuity and artistic acumen and that will endure. We pray for the eternal peace of the departed soul,” it said.