Born On: 2nd April, 1931; Fatehpur(U.P.)
1952: M.Sc. Physics, University of Allahabad
1956: Head of Department of Physics, University of Allahabad
1990: Bhuvaneshwar Award
Died On: 8th July, 1989; America
Bipin Kumar Agarwal was a scientist, a playwright, a novelist, a poet and a painter rolled in one, besides being a highly sensitive and cultured modern person. He was a product of Allahabad which produced such literary luminaries and painters like Mahadevi Verma, Ravindra Nath Deb, Amrit Rai and Jagdish Gupta.But amongst them, Bipin was the only scientist. He was not only the Professor and Head of the Department, but he was a scientist of international repute.
Bipin Kumar had travelled abroad many times to participate in international seminars and conferences. But, to everyone's surprise, the moment he was free from these conferences and seminars, he would at once race to an art gallery or an art museum and spend most of his time looking at the works of famous modern western painters.There is hardly any renowned museum or art gallery in Europe and America, which he did not visit and appraise.Whenever he travelled to Western Countries, he never missed visiting modern art galleries. One wondered why a leading scientist took so much interest in fine arts. He not only spent his time in looking at these art objects, but himself created literary and artistic works. Hundreds of oil paintings, water colours, and sketches are amongst his creations. We are all the more surprised when we learn that he had no formal training in painting. He was a self made painter who followed his own inclinations. Looking at his paintings, one cannot deny that his grasp of western modern art was very deep, which was fully reflected in his works.He played an important role in the development of modern art in Uttar Pradesh. He died an untimely death in America at an early age of 58 years. Modern art lost one of its most talented and successful protagonists.
Bipin Kumar was born in 1931 in Fatehpur at his maternal grand father's place, but he spent most of his childhood in Nainital where his father was working in the Court of Wards. As a child, Bipin was so impressed by the enchanting beauty of nature that the painter in him was awakened. He started by sketching, but soon he was enamoured by the colourful scenery of Nainital and started using colours and paint brush. He did not learn the technique of oil painting from anyone and straight away started creating his own paintings. The result was that his depiction of sceneries did not reflect any professional style but blossomed in the form of free verse. This style continued till 1953. Looking at these sceneries, one feels that he is not attracted by the outer beauty of the scene but is only attempting to express its underlying sensitivity.
In 1953, he was married at the age of 22. His interest thereafter diverted from nature to human forms. Instead of sceneries, he now started painting portraits. These were also self inspired. His attempt was not to draw the likeness of the person but to express through symbols the special characteristics of his personality. By not portraying the physical likeness of the person, Bipin tried to portray the personality of the person as perceived by him. And this perception was also expressed through his own symbolism. Thus his portraits did not look like portraits but appeared as compositions and that too with some distortion. This was his style of self expression which was not only original but also unique.
Bipin made his first trip to America in 1957. But he had been already acquainted with modern art through books and journals and published art albums of Western modern art. These had influenced him greatly. He specially admired impressionist, post impressionist, and expressionist artists like Van Gogh, Gogin, Cezzane, Matiz. These were all powerful artists having their own independent style and had cast their imprint on western art world. Several Indian artists were influenced by the works of these artists and modern art had found its foot hold in our country. All the young artists were being motivated to try new experiments. Bipin was already under the influence of modern art, poetry and literature. The movement of modern art had already reached America. It was at this stage that Bipin got the opportunity of visiting America and looking at new dimensions of modern art - specially the art of abstract expressionism. He visited all the art galleries of New York and went to Europe also. He was introduced to the artistic activities of Paris, Rome and London. The influence of Paul Klee was greatest. He made many paintings during his stay in America and exhibited them in Rochester University.
On his return from foreign travels, Bipin was specially attracted to abstract art, but his paintings were done mostly in surrealist or symbolic style - only the forms became more abstract. Paintings of this type continued till about 1970. In 1959, he organised an exhibition of his new paintings in Delhi. He participated in many other exhibitions also. He never liked to project himself as a professional artist. He mostly painted for himself without much attention to publicity or exhibition. He did not join any group of artists, nor did he have any relationship with any political party or school of thought. He was completely an independent artist and wanted to do something new. Hence the form, style and technique of his paintings was continuously changing. This reflected his scientific temperament. He never trod on a beaten path. He did not care for commercialisation of his art and for this reason, he did not attempt to join any of the popular streams. Though he did desire that his paintings should also find a place in the galleries of Delhi, but being aware of the commercialisation of art, he did not pay much attention in this direction.
By 1970, Bipin's art journey had almost come to an end. After 1970, perhaps he did not make any oil painting, but he continued sketching. Till 1970, he found ample time to paint, but later on he was more and more engrossed in the work of his department in the University. Whatever time he managed to get, was devoted to creative writing. As often happens, the self-contended free artists create mostly for their own pleasure, and when the environment is not favourable and there is lack of motivation, their creativity is hampered. Something similar happened to Bipin. Nevertheless, the awareness towards art continued, which was expressed through several media. The tree of creativity may stop flowering due to lack of inspiration, though the potentiality remains. The difference being that the creations which formerly reached others now turned inwards.
While talking of his paintings, we are first attracted to his self portraits, although there are only three such paintings that are titled 'self portrait'. The tradition of making self portraits belongs to the west where most artists made self portraits in realistic style. The artist would sit before a mirror and draw each part of his body and his expressions, as they were reflected in the mirror. When self impressionist style of painting evolved, then the painter altered the physical features to reflect his inner emotions and character. But Bipin was different from all these. He attempted the novel way of portraying his character through external symbols which, to a great extent, reveals an Indian proclivity. For example, the symbolic illustrations of Indian gods and goddesses like Ganesh, Saraswati, Brahma, Vishnu, Kali etc. whose power and characteristics are expressed through recognised symbols. Bipin used this style in making self-portraits. The difference is, that Bipin has tried to express his nature and personality through his own chosen symbols, colours and forms. All his three self portraits reveal at places surrealistic tendency, at other places expressionist style and at other places cubistic creation because of the influence on him of the western modern art styles. Still, from the point of view of symbolism, his self portraits are unique.
On the whole, we can say that Bipin's outlook was scientific, his expression was literary and his creations exhibited modern art. He had an intense love for fine arts since his childhood, but because he chose the career of a scientist and a science teacher and because he was also involved in modern literary creations and because of his untimely demise, all his potentialities as an artist could not find an outlet. The vast number of paintings made during his short life, point out the fact that what we were able to see was only a tip of the iceberg.
- Ram Chandra Shukla
( Translated from an introduction written by Shri Ram Chandra Shukla for exhibitions held at Lucknow & Delhi by Rashtriya Lalit Kala Academy )