Sunayani Devi

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Sunayani Devi
Sunayani Devi 01.jpg
Sunayani Devi

(1875-06-18)18 June 1875
Died23 February 1962(1962-02-23) (aged 86)

Sunayani Devi (18 June 1875 – 23 February 1962) was an Indian painter born into the aristocratic Tagore family in Calcutta, West Bengal. She was a self taught artist, with no academic training in art. Inspired by her brothers, Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, and Samarendranath Tagore, she started painting only at the age of 30[1][2] She was married at the age of 11 to the grandson of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.

Painting style and themes[edit]

Known to be a true primitive of the Bengal Art School, she drew inspiration from the folk Pata painting style which was familiar to the women of the Tagore household. Often depicting scenes from Indian epics and mythologies in her works. Some of her notable works are Sadhika, Ardhanarisvar, Satir Dehatyag, Milk Maids, Yashoda and Krishna among others.[3] According to Stella Kramrisch, she was the first modern painter in India. Her works were exhibited in 1922 as part of the Bauhaus artists exhibition in Calcutta.[4] Since the beginning her artworks have been original and bold. They resemble the ancient Jain manuscript paintings. She applied wash technique to its fullest and later her woks echoed the native imagery like village clay dolls that would be used as ornamentation. Her works are an amalgamation of modernist dialogue of primitive simplicity and a larger national discourse of being rooted in its cultural identity. Thus carving her image as a nationalist artist. Critical analyses of her portraits, have led her to be addressed as a naïve painter, who used folk themes with allure and sensitivity.[5]

Early life[edit]

Sunayani Devi was born on 18 June 1875[6] in the historically influential Tagore family in Calcutta. She was married at the age of 11 to Rajanimohan Chattopadhyaya. She never had formal training in art other than the art and music lessons as feminine accomplishments, as Partha Mitter cites in his book, "The Triumph of Modernism: India's Artists and the Avant-garde, 1922–1947"[7]


Some of the exhibitions of Sunayani Devi's paintings are:[8]

  1. 1908, 10, 12 Exhb., Indian Society of Oriental Art, Calcutta.
  2. 1911 United Provinces Exhb. organised by Indian Society of Oriental Art, Allahabad.
  3. 1911 Festival of Empire, organised by Indian Society of Oriental Art for George Vs Coronation Crystal Palace, London.
  4. 1924 Travelling exhb. organised by Indian Society of Oriental Art and American Federation of Art, USA.
  5. 2004 Manifestations II, organised by Delhi Art Gallery, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi.[9]
  6. 2011 Summer Oasis, organised by Chitrakoot Art Gallery, Kolkata[10]


Sunayani Devi's paintings are part of the collection of many prestigious Museums. These include:[11]

  1. Indian Museum Kolkata
  2. NGMA, Bengaluru
  3. NGMA New Delhi
  4. The National Art Gallery, Chennai.
  5. Sri Chitra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram.
  6. Jaganmohan Palace, Mysore.
  7. Lucknow University, Lucknow.
  8. Rabindra Bharati University Museum, Kolkata.
  9. Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata.


  1. ^ Singh, Kishore (10 April 2015). "It's all relative". Business Standard. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  2. ^ Helland, Janice (2016). Local/Global: Women Artists in the Nineteenth Century. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 66–67. ISBN 9780754631972.
  3. ^ Kar, Amina. "Critical collective". Critical Collective.
  4. ^ "Artists".
  5. ^ "Milk Maids". National Portal and Digital Repository for Indian Museums. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
  6. ^ "Artist Gellary - SUNAYANI DEVI". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  7. ^ Mitter, Partha (2007). The Triumph of Modernism: India's Artists and the Avant-garde, 1922–1947. Reaktion Books. p. 234. ISBN 978-1-86189-318-5.
  8. ^ "Goa Art Gallery".
  9. ^ "The Hindu".
  10. ^ "Timeout".
  11. ^ "Museums of India (Government Website)".