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Quamrul Hassan’s death anniv today

Monwarul Islam

Quamrul HassanQuamrul Hassan

Patua Quamrul Hassan’s 26th death anniversary will be observed today.
A politically conscious and committed artist Hassan died on February 2, 1988 following a cardiac arrest after the completion of the then autocratic ruler Hossaian Muhammad Ershad’s caricature titled Desh Aaj Biswa Behayar Khappore at a programme organised by Jatio Kabita Parishad at Dhaka University.
His caricature of the Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan, Annihilate These Demons, inspired people to fight against the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971.  
A pioneering artist in the contemporary art scene in Bangladesh, Patua Quamrul Hassan (1921-1988) in his career spanning over four decades developed a unique style using elements from the folk art of the country.
Leading artists and critics of the country evaluate Quamrul Hassan as a master artist for the latter’s unique ability of blending traditional folk art with western cubism - an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement pioneered by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and others.
Hassan retained his political acumen throughout his life, and his had a true fighting spirit, reads Hasnat Abdul Hye’s book on Quamrul Hasan titled ‘Loraku Potua’.
According to Mijarul Quayes’ essay titled ‘The Art and Aesthetics of Quamrul Hassan’, the artist got the ‘back to tradition’ motto during his active involvement in the Bratachary movement, a spiritual and social movement, while studying art at the Kolkata Government Art School in the late 1930s.
‘In the Bratachary camp, he came across many traditional artists, known as patuas, whom Hassan took as the source for his root searching endeavour as a nationalist artist. People call him patua as the artist followed the lines, compositions and colour use of the folk art.  But he never painted pata (scroll paintings), rather created a unique style blending the traditional motifs with the western art concepts,’ said Nissar Hossain, professor of Drawing and Painting of FFA at Dhaka University. 
‘Another source of inspiration for Hassan was the early 20th century Indian painter Jamini Roy.  In fact, Hassan used to say “Where Jamini Roy ended, I began.” But, he took subjects from contemporary lives, not from religious stories or myths as found in Jamini Roy’s works,’ Nissar Hossain adds.
Hossain’s colleague at the same department Mutlab Ali said, ‘The master artist tried to give a three dimensional look of the traditional two-dimensional scroll painting. Doing that he used the western cubist technique where the objects are broken and reassembled to give more than one viewpoints,’ says Matlub Ali, a close associate of Quamrul Hassan.
Quamrul Hassan’s popular artworks including Baul (1968), Flutist (1969), Raibenshe Dance (1974) and Bangladesh (1974) are classic examples of his unique ability of creating the three-dimensional impression of the two-dimensional objects using bold and bright lines as found in the traditional scroll paintings.
According to many critiques on Hassan, the master artist has many followers who have been working in fusing cubism, or fusing other western styles and folk forms and elements.
But the legacy of Hassan’s style is not available now. ‘There is a recognisable difference between Quamrul bhai and his posterity in the use of media and the treatment of subject, but the core practice of fusing has persisted in many,’ said Matlub Ali.
To speak of political awareness of the artist, there are many major and popular works where Hassan comes up with scathing exposure of the socio-political phenomena. With palpable political messages such as Many-faced Fazlul Haque (1946), Nazimuddin (1948), The Legacy of the Beasts of 1971 (1972), Image 74 and many more are in the repertory of the Patua.
‘Quamrul Hassan did not do many politically-charged caricatures, but there are drawings and sketches that bore poignant relevance to political incidences,’ evaluates seasoned artist Rafiqun Nabi, also popular cartoonist in the country.

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