One of the most famous and most important artists of modern India, Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) is hailed as the leading spirit behind the renaissance of Indian Painting and the mentor of the Neo Bengal movement in Arts. Tagore, the poet, qualified him as a genius of rare capabilities. He said, "Rarely did one come across in one person such a union of intelligence, sympathy, skill, experience and insight". Gandhi's Dandi March was depicted in lines and colors by Nandalal and it won instant acclaim from all over the world. He drew a couple of pictures, like the one of Buddha with the lamb he saved from the killer, on the walls of Gandhi's ashram in Sevagram. And he did several paintings based on the life and work of Gandhiji. The memorial for Gandhiji, built up in Delhi, was finished by him.
Nandalal was a naturalist laced with the European realism. Born in Bihar, his early influence was his mother, who taught him the first lessons in language and painting. His leading role in the shaping up of modern Indian painting was rooted in his deep sense of nationalism, philosophical inclination, awareness of the classical and folk art of his land, fascination for symbolism and the inspiration he gained from Abanindranath Tagore, the vice principal, and E.B. Havel, the principal of the government art school in Calcutta. Ananda Coomaraswami, the famous art critic and historian, and Sister Nivedita, the disciple of Swami Vivekananda played an important part in the transformation of Nandalal into what he became later. He copied the cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora, as well as the 1000-year old Bagh Cave paintings in Uttar Pradesh. He also copied the paintings of masters like Raphel and Raja Ravi Varma. He always found and thought that art was for the people. Out of these exposures and experience evolved the painting philosophy of Nandalal; and it helped art in India to find its modern face which identified its innate, indigenous roots.
When Abanindranath Tagore was the director of Indian Society of Oriental Arts, Nandalal became the chief of its department of painting. Later he took over the responsibility of running Kalabhavan, the arts wing of Tagore's Shantiniketan. When Shantiniketan became Viswabharati University, Nandalal became the director of Kalabhavan.
Honors and awards flowed to Nandalal Bose. The doctorates from various universities, the Tagore Birth Centenary Award, the Padmabhushan, one of India's highest civilian awards were some of them. It was Nandalal who designed the emblems for the Padmashri, Padmabhushan, Padmavibhushan and Bharat Ratna; and that too under the orders from none other than Jawaharlal Nehru.
Bose passed away on April 16, 1966.