Skip to content
Paritosh Sen & Rabin Mondal | Oh! Calcutta! : Lost in the City -  - Exhibitions - Aicon Contemporary

Rabin Mondal, Lovers I, 2001. Acrylic on canvas, 24h x 24w in

Aicon Contemporary is pleased to present Oh! Calcutta!: Lost in the City, a dual exhibition featuring the works of Paritosh Sen (b. 1918, Dhaka) and Rabin Mondal (b. 1929, Howrah), two iconic South Asian modernists who have often been under-represented. Oh! Calcutta: Lost in the City is a tale of two artists’ relationship with the city of Calcutta, as well as the evolution of an entire nation. Born a decade apart, both the artists witnessed the same significant socio-political moments in the history of Calcutta. Though neither of the artists were born there, both spent formative educational and professional periods of their lives in Calcutta. The two were founding members of separate art movements; Mondal was a founding member of the Calcutta 8 and Sen paved the way for the Calcutta group. 

Mondal and Sen coincidentally both grew up in large families in West Bengal/Bangladesh, a feat of the Bengali values of the time. The artists, both figurative painters, felt alienated in their own crowded households which shaped their relationship to the city and the people in it. Through their distinct styles of figurative painting, Mondal’s stark cubist expressionist depictions and Sen’s sartorial paper and board works of female subjects represent the different voices that came out of the same historical period. 

Rabin Mondal primarily painted depictions of tragic looking figures, seemingly suffering from paranoia and fear. The dark tones and stark look acted as portraits of his time itself, which included witnessing the partition of Bengal, the Great Famine of 1943, communal unrest and poverty all around. Mondal’s canvases have a cubist influence, as well as a sense of expressionism which was a result of interacting with the suffering masses in Calcutta. 

Mondal’s formal education in art was at the Indian College of Art and Draughtsmanship, Calcutta. He continued his artistic studies at the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art at the University of Calcutta. In 1964, Rabin and what is now known as the "Group of Eight" formed the Calcutta Painters. This lively group of artists worked to promote modernist art not only in Calcutta, but throughout India, becoming nationally known in the process. 

Paritosh Sen’s works are caricatured portraits of women which reflect humor and sharpness in equal parts. Like Mondal, Sen was bored by his home life and pushed by the state of public life at the time. His caricatures, although come across as humorous, are also a consequence of his complex interaction with the city of Calcutta and its people. Paritosh Sen was a founding member of the Calcutta Group which did much for modernism in the Indian context. While teaching in Indore, he acquainted himself with masters like Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne which led him to study in Paris. In 1949, he left to attend Ecole des Beaux Arts. 

The show brings together important works by Rabin Mondal and Paritosh Sen to create the stage for reflecting upon the history of a great city. Through their creation of their subjects and the use of completely different lenses, we are presented here with the varied ways of seeing what emerged in modern India. 

Paritosh Sen & Rabin Mondal | Oh! Calcutta! : Lost in the City -  - Exhibitions - Aicon Contemporary

Paritosh Sen, Untitled Diptych, 2005. Ink on paper, 22h x 15w in

Rabin Mondal (b. 1929, Howrah - d. 2019) was a painter and educator who completed his Bachelor’s in Commerce at Vidyasagar College, Kolkata University all while nurturing his passion for art through evening classes at the Indian College of Art and Draughtsmanship. He continued his artistic studies at the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art at the University of Calcutta and in 1964, Rabin and what is now known as the "Group of Eight" formed the Calcutta Painters. Inspired by revolutionary artists such as Jamini Roy and Rabindranath Tagore, Modal’s upbringing in the bustling, industrial district of Howrah shaped his artistic vision. The socio-economic disparities he witnessed, compounded by events like the Bengal Famine of 1943 and the Calcutta communal riots of 1946, deeply influenced his work, reflecting human struggle and moral decay. 

His art, characterized by bold strokes and grotesque renderings through a cubist, expressionist influence depict inner turmoil of his subjects. The dark tones and stark look act as a portrayal of the active horrors around him which became an outlet for him to express this turbulence that were seemingly all around him. Throughout his career, Mondal garnered recognition through national and international exhibitions, earning accolades such as the ‘Eminent Painter’ award from AIFACS, New Dehli, in 1996, and the Abanindranath Puraskar, Kolkata, in 2001. Even after his passing in 2019, Mondal’s legacy endures and the weight of his work is felt all the same.


Paritosh Sen (b. 1918, Dhaka - d. 2008). A painter, illustrator, tutor and writer, Paritosh Sen was an integral part of the world of Indian art. Sen's more recognizable works are his caricatures, which reflect strong underlying socio-political shades, and his female nude drawings. His style of representation was influenced by his exposure to Western Modern art and has traces of cubism. He used two dimensional, structured planes while still creating an illusion of voluptuousness. His drawings and paintings are noted for their strong lines and bold, stylised strokes. Although color was an important aspect of his paintings, it is the human figure, expressing a myriad of emotions that dominated his art. A recurrent subject in Sen's works is his depiction of scenes from everyday urban life. These activities are rendered from a cynical and detached perspective, which was typically Sen's viewpoint.

Paritosh Sen had a Diploma in Fine Arts from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Chennai. In 1942, he moved to Calcutta, where he and a group of friends formed the Calcutta Group, an association of artists that sought to incorporate contemporary values in Indian art. In 1949, he left for Paris to study further, attending, among other institutes, the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He received a Fellowship for 1970-'71 from the John D. Rockefeller III Fund. A prolific writer, Sen has published many works in both Bengali and in English, including a series of autobiographical vignettes titled 'Jindabahar Lane'. His works have been exhibited in India and internationally, in Paris, London, Germany, Tokyo and in the US. Paritosh Sen passed away in 2008.