SM Pandit: The doyen of art

Dr. S. M. Pandit was one of the most popular and much sought-after painters of his times, especially in the school of Realism in contrast to the contemporaneous net-traditionalist Bengal Renaissance and other Indian modern art movements.

Most of his subjects oscillated between events from classical Indian literature including the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and the contemporary cinema of his times.

He infused a rare blend of artistic virtuosity and filmi glamour to his portrayal of romantic characters like Radha-Krishna, Nala-Damayanti, and Viswamitra-Menaka as also the many heroes and heroines of Hindi cinema.

In addition to his critically acclaimed masterpieces he also illustrated many popular film posters, film magazines and various other publications in what can collectively be termed as calendar art. His works remain hugely popular even today.

His mythological paintings and calendar art have been collected widely. He is also widely celebrated in the Indian calendar industry for his “realistic” depiction (albeit inspired by contemporary Indian cinema) of themes from Hindu mythology. In these paintings he emphasised the physical forms of the heroes, heroines, gods and goddesses in marked contrast to traditional and classical styles of Indian painting.

In his paintings, Pandit depicted his subjects as handsome, muscular, valorous men and sensuously beautiful, voluptuous women set in surroundings suggestive of cinema settings and sceneries.

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Born on 25 March 1916, in Gulbarga district of Karnataka state, Sambanand Monappa Pandit became a student of Shankar Rao Alandkar who was also a Sir. J. J. School of Arts product.

Subsequently he took his diploma from the Madras School of Art.

He came to Mumbai in 1935 and joined Nootan Kala Mandir for further studies under the guidance of Shri G S Dandavathimath and appeared for his Diploma at Sir. J.J. School of Arts where he was taught by renowned teachers like Shri K.B Chudekar.

His headmaster at the Sir J.J. School was the famous artist M. V. Dhurandhar known for his use of naturalistic techniques to depict scenes from Indian mythology, History and Classical Literature, a style he inherited from Raja Ravi Varma, and passed on to Pandit.

Pandit was also greatly influenced by Capt. W.E. Gladstone Soleman, the then Director of Art in Sir J J School of Arts Mumbai. Pandit subsequently completed his Diploma with distinction.

In a certain sense, Pandit inherited the “naturalistic” or the ” realistic” stye of painting from Raja Ravi Varma.

In his own time, he was recognised as the foremost artist in the Genre by many of his contemporaries and continues to influence artists even to the present day.

He was awarded a medal at the International exhibition in Toronto in 1944 for one of his cover designs.

The exhibition of his mythological and portrait paintings in 1978 at the Ravi Shankar Hall and the Indian High Commission in London and Manchester won him popular appreciation and critical acclaim.

He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London (F.R.S.A.)in 1978.

During the Festival of India held in London, he painted portraits of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, which are on permanent display in the Indian High Commission and Commonwealth Institute in London.

Among his other masterpieces is the life size portrait of Swami Vivekananda at Kanyakumari. Pandit has also painted several other portraits of Prominent persons and leaders, including the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi now at the New Council Hall, Mumbai.

His paintings, posters and prints figure in many important collections including the Roman Art Gallery in New York, H. Daniel Smith Poster Archive in the Syracuse University library and many other private and public collections in India and abroad.

The S. M. Pandit art gallery is in Gulbarga, presently run by his son Krishnaraj Pandit, houses a collection of some of the important paintings of Pandit.

Pandit was the founder member of the Commercial Artists guild, Mumbai.

He was a recipient of the Gold Medal of the Royal Academy in London and was also conferred the State Lalit Kala Academy Award in 1983, and the Rajyotsava Award in 1984.

He was conferred the D.Litt. from Gulbarga University, Karnataka in 1986.


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