Apr 15, 2024 Prajwala Ghate

The Myriad Minded Artist: Lalu Prasad Shaw

The Myriad Minded Artist: Lalu Prasad Shaw


A beautiful Bengali woman combing her long lustrous hair, admiring her gorgeous Baluchari saree in the mirror or smelling the mild fragrance of ambrosial jasmine flowers, Bengali man casually lighting cigarette, chasing the records in his gramophone, or quietly sitting and musing about his day. These are the usual subjects of Lalu Prasad Shaw’s paintings, that would transport the onlookers to a typical Bengali middle-class home from the colonial ear.

Born in 1937, in Bengal, Lalu Prasad Shaw is a noted Indian artist. He graduated in Fine Arts from the Government College or Arts and Crafts in Kolkata, in 1959. Renowned for his remarkable stylised portraits of Bengali men, women and couples, Shaw pieces together different characteristics of Bengali people and homes to capture moments that come out of daily lives of these people, in his paintings.



Lalu Prasad Shaws paintings are an ode to Bengali middle-class families. A distinct aspect of his paintings is capturing simple yet sophisticated scenes from Bengali homes. In these engaging portraits, the artist gives prominence to the subjects expressions, their postures, gestures and their physical characteristics and appearance. His approach to these portraits and his paintings is a beautiful blend of unique and modern recreations of traditional and academic Indian art forms.

The vintage windows and doors, flower vase, subjects wearing golden jewellery and the antique furniture makes these paintings memorable. He includes daily objects found in a common Bengali households, such as candle lamps, hand fans, hookah, flowerpots, etc. immortalising the golden days. His colour palette is comprises of rustic shades of red, in a way tying the simple and down-to-earth nature of Bengali people and their traditions with his paintings.


Lalu Prasad Shaw’s stunning stylised figurative paintings, are a beautiful blend of traditional and modern. More than anything else, he focuses on capturing the physical appearance and expressions of his subjects. However, these portraits do not look posed, they look like someone took a candid photo of a Bengali man casually smoking his cigarette, peering at his golden watch, or relaxing on his bed or a Bengali woman combing her hair in the evening, admiring her beautiful saree in the mirror, unceremoniously adjusting the flower arrangement and decor of her living room, or carefully adjusting her saree. He adorns these subjects in traditional clothes including the long Baluchari sarees with a gold border, the women wear gold jewellery and huge red bindi while the men are dressed in a typical Bengali dhoti kurta and leather chappal, sometimes with a walking stick or umbrella in their hands and golden rimmed glasses on their eyes.

Though Shaw likes to call himself a painter and not an artist, one can see that he has worked with numerous mediums over the years. These days he mostly uses conte and tempera, but throughout his career, he has worked with other mediums such as gouache and charcoal. At the age of 32, Shaw was fascinated by printmaking and explored the field of graphic art. Prior to that, he had worked with intaglios and lithographs. Irrespective of his medium, his colour palette leans towards warm and rustic tones, resonating with the beauty and simplicity of colonial days.



Lalu Prasad Shaws art is influenced by and is a confluence of the pre-independence Company School of art, Anjanta Cave paintings and the traditional Kalighat Pat. Shaw uses gouache or tempera medium in his paintings that have a very calm effect on the observer. One can see the refection of Shaw himself in these honest depiction of common Bengali people. His subjects are very composed, simple, elegant and dignified.