Has Chennai Forgotten One of its Greatest Artists? - The New Indian Express

Has Chennai Forgotten One of its Greatest Artists?

Published: 30th December 2013 07:40 AM

Last Updated: 30th December 2013 07:40 AM

GD Paul Raj’s daughter Shiba Paul Raj is sad that not many are aware that this is his centenary year. “It is very sad and I don’t know what to say,” says Shiba, herself an artist.

G D Paul Raj, who belonged to Kodaikanal, went to the Chennai Government School of Arts and was part of the first batch under the legendary artist Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury. He also used to publicise about World War-II through his paintings. He was also proficient in oil and poster colour painting and used a lot of Tempera style of paintings, she says.

Shiba says that her father had  also received many awards, including the Mysore State Award from the Maharaja and another one during the late TN Chief Minister MGR’s regime.

She says, “He was a realistic painter. Whatever he saw, he brought it out on paper.” Pointing to a beautiful painting of waves, she adds, “He spent hours on the beach to paint the waves.” She says that when Queen Elizabeth came to Chennai decades ago, he was asked to paint at the Boat Club. That painting is among the Queen’s collection now and another painting of his is in the Pope’s collection.

Just one glimpse of his paintings and one will know how dexterous his hands must have been.

Paul Raj, also known as the water-colour expert, never used white in his paintings. He played with colours so beautifully that the paper was enough to give the white shade. 

One of his paintings of a mosque gives the very feel of white marble and surprisingly no colour has been used. His paintings speak about his passion, making known the fact that he had travelled a lot. These include scenes from villages just before rain, leaves of the Gulmohar tree on the ground, busy market places, a blindman singing on the road with his wife and many more.

Shiba also shares the love story of her parents. Her mother Pankajam, who was a student of Nandalal Bose, studied art under Paulraj when she fell in love with him.

Her father’s love for her mother was evident from one of his sketches  of her while being asleep, expecting her first child.

Shiba says that of her five siblings, two are artists, while one is an architect. Looking at her paintings one can say that art runs in the family’s blood.

She says her grandparents Mary and Devapriam, who had nine children, were the proud parents of four artists (three sons and one daughter).

G D Paul Raj, Arul Raj and Tyag Raj known as the ‘Raj Brothers’, had  received various honours. Of them the youngest (Tyag Raj) was an artist at the Palace of Maharani Gayatri Devi, while their sister Egma was the curator of the National Gallery Melbourne and the first woman curator to make it to the list of India’s ‘Who’s Who’.

Renowned Tamil actor Sivakumar, who is also an artist, recalls how Paul Raj was a master at work and had sketched a lot of Banyan trees.

He added that many of his paintings are at the Victoria Technical Institute of art. “I am too a water colour artist and Paulraj’s works have inspired me a lot,” says Sivakumar.

Artist A V Ilango shares his thoughts about Paul Raj, “There are several ardent followers of him and I am one of them. I love landscapes, and I have taken a lot of inspiration from him.”

G D Paul Raj’s quote beautifully summarises his work, “I never saw an ugly thing in life. For let the form of the object be what it may, light, shade and perspective will always make it beautiful.”

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