The contribution of the Mukherjees to the development of 20th century Indian art has few parallels. As artists, each developed their unique vocabularies which profoundly impacted the works of their contemporaries, while still challenging dominant artistic lineages and easy art historical categories. Benode Behari Mukherjee and Leela Mukherjee made significant contributions to the shaping of art pedagogy in India through their role as teachers/educators. Benode Behari pioneered in bringing scroll and mural painting into modern Indian art, and subsequently engaged with the domain of public art. Both Leela and Mrinalini Mukherjee worked with the sculptural medium almost all their lives, defying the stereotype of sculpture being a male bastion.
However, despite being recognized as stalwarts by their contemporaries, the Benode Behari and Leela Mukherjees’ contributions to Indian art has been understudied and understated for the most part. Benode Behari’s extensive repertoire as a versatile artist, deep thinker and passionate teacher came to be recognised by a larger audience only in the last decade of his life, when he received the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India and was elected a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi. Leela Mukherjee's bold wooden sculptures, ceramic works and drawings, while exhibited well during her lifetime, was known only to a few insiders of the art world. In recent times there has been a renewed interest in her practice as one of the early women sculptors from India.
The Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation’s primary goal is to thus preserve the legacy of the Mukherjees as artists, teachers, pedagogues and intellectuals, and recognise the ways in which their lives and vision have impacted modern and contemporary art in India. The Foundation’s website is the first in our effort to share their lives and works to a newer and wider art audience.
For those looking for more detailed information and first-hand recources, the Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation Archive is currently being developed by the Foundation team in collaboration with other institutions, and will soon be made open to the public.
Through these efforts in sharing resources, developing platforms for research and practice, and collaboration, the Foundation hopes to inspire contemporary practitioners and scholars to continue working with the rigour and experimental drive that the Mukherjees exemplified.