Shanu Lahiri’s world: A peep into art and love for art

Nobody who went to meet painter and art educator Shanu Lahiri at her Lake Town home in Kolkata ever left unfed. From fixing quick salads to preparing elaborate meals, there are numerous stories about her many experiments in the kitchen. Her daughter, Damayanti has been maintaining her legacy,single-handedly.

Shanu Lahiri, D.Lit (2003), has been an established artist, educator, social worker, speaker, writer and illustrator. Her artistic career spanned over six decades. She was born in Calcutta, India in a family famous for art, which included the noted litterateur Kamal Kumar and eminent artist Nirode Mazumder.

She graduated from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta, and further studied art at Academy Julien, Paris and art appreciation in the Ecole de Louvre, Paris. An ardent animal lover and community activist, Lahiri has worked extensively in the arena of public art.

With over forty solo shows in India and abroad, Shanu  Lahiri’s works are a part of the permanent collections of the Berlin Gallery, Dominion Art Gallery of Montreal, National Gallery of New Delhi, Salar Jung Museum, Lalit Kala Akademy and in private collections all over the world. She made history when she received the President of India’s Gold Medal for painting and when her first solo exhibition was held in Calcutta while she was still a student, a feat unheard of in those days.

The decade of the 80’s was dominated by the increasingly public profile of Shanu Lahiri, as an educationist, organiser and art-activist. The decade now saw the artist engaged in a public role. Following the practice of artists creating the image of goddess Durga at Bakulbagan which started in 1975 by Nirode Mazumdar, Shanu Lahiri designed the Durga idol twice for Bakulbagan, following the lead of other artists who each year created modern and stylistic idioms to work within a clay-modelled image of the goddess.

Through her art, Shanu Lahiri addressed the contemporary realities of society. She was recognised for her highly individualistic style and became a leading artist on Kolkata’s contemporary art scene, along with fellow painter Karuna Shaha. The famous art collector and scholar Dr. Max Stern once offered her a permanent residency at the Dominion Art Gallery, Montreal. She declined the offer in favour of continuing her work with her people, in her country. 

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