The Retrospective offers a glimpse into one of the defining periods of modern Indian art.

Six books, 500 exhibits, and a two-month long retrospective, which will travel to Bangalore and Mumbai. Delayed it might be but this only reflects on the stature of Ramkinkar Baij, who is credited with giving a new direction to modernism in Indian art.

And what does the viewer get to see at “Ramkinkar Baij: A Retrospective” currently on at National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA)? K.S. Radhakrishnan, its curator, sculptor and Baij’s student, allows us a glimpse into one of the defining periods of modern art.

Numerous photographs of monumental sculptures, models for some of them, sculptures and a large collection of watercolours trace the evolution of Ramkinkar Baij from Bankura in West Bengal to Santiniketan. Life and all its animate beings took up primary position in his oeuvre. Substantiating this are etchings (“Three kittens”, “Cat family”),watercolours (“Man walking with a Blue Dog”), various studies of horses, dogs, goats, bulls and sculptures like “Fountain” (an outdoor sculpture in direct concrete in Santiniketan) that bring out his love for nature.

A witness to the transformation in society he dealt with questions of class and ethnicity in his discourse. “Santhal Family”, “Mill Call” and many other works resulted from this engagement.

Though he remained unmarried, he was in love with a Manipuri girl called Benodini and Radhakrishnan has dedicated an entire room to her portraits. Another significant part of the show is the number of models and studies Baij did before the final exquisite figurines of “Yaksha-Yakshi” were born. “He wasn’t happy with the result as he wanted to make it from a single piece of stone but he had to do it from four different parts,” explains Radhakrishnan.

Bottomline: Life and all its animate beings took up primary position in his oeuvre.

Ramkinkar Baij: A Retrospective, NGMA, Jaipur House, India Gate, New Delhi. On till April 31.