In the death of Kishore Chatterjee, the cultural world has lost a multi-faceted person.
Kishore Chatterjee (August 2, 1938 – June 13, 2011) was a Kolkata-based artist, writer, singer, music and art critic, and a lifelong lover of Western classical music who played a significant role introducing his favourite music to new audiences in Kolkata and elsewhere through hundreds of public talks and newspaper columns, as well as award-winning short films and books for both children and adults on the subject. Chatterjee practiced continuously as an artist throughout his adult life, showing his work at several solo and joint exhibitions in Kolkata and Delhi. Although he worked fluently in diverse styles including pen and ink, collage, pastels and lino-cuts, he was noted primarily for the vivid and brilliant use of colours in his oil paintings.
Another distinctive aspect of his work was the highly personal iconography, and sense of a charged interior universe, with which he filled his canvases — an individual visual lexicon that freely mingled elements drawn from a great variety of sources: the figures of Jesus Christ and Beethoven, numerous motifs from Tagore's songs such as the cowherd boy and the flautist, Shakespearean characters such as Ariel and Puck, human and animal figures drawn from Kolkata street-life, portraits from among his friends and family, not to mention Krishna and Mephistopheles, as well as recurring images of owls and dogs, ghosts, masks and clowns.
Since 1970, Chatterjee was a frequently invited speaker on Western classical music at several cultural and academic institutions, including Max Mueller Bhavan, British Council, Jadavpur University, the Calcutta School of Music and Calcutta University. He anchored radio programmes on All India Radio, and on the BBC from London during a visit to Europe on a music scholarship in the late 1970s. A shared love of Western classical music also formed the cornerstone of a long friendship with the late Satyajit Ray, which led to Chatterjee's involvement in helping create the score for a scene in Ray's penultimate film, “Shakha Proshakha”.
Chatterjee was a regular columnist, and contributed two milestone series (‘Classical Gas' and ‘Strings Attached') exploring and sharing various aspects of his beloved music to The Statesman in Kolkata, and more recently, to The Hindu as well. These articles were compiled and expanded upon in a handsome volume published in 2010, entitled “Beethoven and Friends”.
He was also a published poet, a caricaturist, a writer of novellas and short stories for adults as well as books for children on art and music in both English and Bengali, a distinguished art and music critic, and a non-professional but devoted singer of Rabindra Sangeet. In February 2011, he released a CD of 12 Tagore songs at the Calcutta School of Music.
Kishore Chatterjee was the grandson of Sunayani Devi, niece of Rabindranath Tagore and perhaps the first modern Indian woman artist. He is survived by his beloved wife of 47 years, the writer, feminist activist, and art, drama and music critic, Maitreyi Chatterjee.