About Sarbani Sen

Sarbani-Sen-cover-photo-Picture theme

Sarbani Sen

Brought up in Assam, Eastern India, surrounded by stunning landscapes from an early age, Sarbani was a proverbial lover of nature. Her work is about nature and man’s relationship with his environment. A compulsive traveler, a brilliant scholar, an ardent nature lover, that she has the stance of a romantic there is no doubt. She blends classic romanticism with mathematical precision to create a perfect balance of beauty and tranquility. Her work varies from the realistic to stylized semi abstraction.

Along with her curriculum in the Presidency University, Kolkata, she had read extensively on art and gained in-depth knowledge of classical and contemporary art in India, Europe and Japan. So, when she gave up a career in Mathematics and started sketching and painting whole heartedly, she was armed with an intensive knowledge of the theoretical side of painting and her mind was completely in tune with the sights and sounds around her.

From 1974 she started painting seriously, her subject remaining nature and man’s relationship with nature. In the early eighties, in Bombay, she came under the guidance of late Prof. N. S. Bendre of J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai, one of the great painters in India. From him she learnt the value of following her own instincts over being academic. She said of these years in an interview to the Economic Times, “… I have spent more time with canvases that I imagined I would be painting, than doing the actual painting. My mind has sped, leaving the brush to plod behind. Vision and imagery crowded my eyes but they eluded the hand…” While her vision is definitely that of a romantic, nothing diluted the rigors of intellectual scrutiny.

Sarbani started to show her paintings in exhibitions from 1981. She has had twenty five solo exhibitions of her paintings in galleries in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta and five in London.


Landscapes for her is a subjective reality, an atonement, where the beholder and the beholden become one. Nothing is allowed to intrude into this space, not even the artist’s own presence.

The desert paintings are a somewhat different story. The unyielding empty land, the relentless sun, the harsh wind, the figures as if seen through upward moving hot air, sometimes bordering on surrealism: here the story is of struggle and compromise of life, and living with and against nature.


A Tribute

My mother Sarbani Sen, started painting in her early 30s, purely as a hobby. She had had no formal training in the arts, so her work was largely self-taught. The family lived then in Durgapur, West Bengal, a charming heavily wooded tropical company town, and she painted whatever she saw around her. The giant gulmohurs in the garden, the dense sal groves just behind the back fence, the tall deodars standing as sentinels at the gate – all was grist to the mill of an intensely imaginative and nature loving spirit.

She had her first exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta, to rave reviews and sales. Just over a year later, she held her second exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, one of the foremost art centers in the country. This exhibition was graced by Shri Pranab Mukherjee, then Union Finance Minister, who kindly inaugurated the event as well.

And there was no looking back for her for the next 30 years, as she held shows mainly in India and UK, always with the appreciation of both critics and collectors.

As she started showing abroad, many connoisseurs suggested that she also explore themes in ‘’Indian Art’’, mainly vignettes of life in India’s colorful villages. So mid-way through her career, my mother learnt how to draw human figures for the first time. And thus, she added a new theme to her paintings – women carrying water in the desert, men and women dancing with sticks, markets and village fairs. Landscapes remained her first love, but the human element was now added.

Her last exhibition was in Mumbai in 2012.

My mother passed away in February 2020 at the age of 79, at her home in Pune. This recreated website is a tribute to her life and art.

Shamita Sengupta