A pre-eminent artist across several media, the work of Padma Bhushan Dashrath Patel epitomises the finest flowering of post-Independence creativity in India. In disciplines as wide ranging as painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, architecture and design (product, graphic, jewellery, glass, industrial ceramics, leather, wood and exhibition design), he left an indelible stamp of his versatility.
Born on October 6, 1927, Dashrath was the first director of Design Education at the newly established National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, in 1961, and for the twenty years till he left it in 1980. With help from the internationally famous Charles & Ray Eames, he established the first professional design practice in India in the sixties by developing a training programme in Visual Communication. A product of the Government College of Art, Chennai (1949-53), where he was a student of Debi Prasad Roy Choudhury, he did his post-graduation from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, in 1955. Dashrath was initiated into photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1954 and was counted among the most important photographers working out of India. Since then he held scores of solo exhibitions in India and abroad in a range of genres. Rated among the pioneers as well the foremost practitioners of studio pottery and industrial ceramics in India, Dashrath trained in Prague, Czechoslovakia, under the extraordinary master Prof. Eckert. In 1980, Dashrath set up the first Indian ‘Rural Design School’, at the Gandhian integrated rural development project (Saghan Khshetra Vikas Samiti) in Sewapuri, U.P. In a period of ten years, he made crucial interventions in product design for rural areas, besides training children of artisans in understanding new product design for their own needs and economy. Dashrath has been honoured with many awards, including the first ever Padma Shri for Design & Design Education, in 1981 and the Padma Bhushan (posthumously) in 2011. In 2000, he was among the ten ‘millennial achievers’ to be awarded the ‘Gaurav Puraskar’ by the Government of Gujarat. Before he passed away, he successfully set up (in 2009) the Dashrath Patel Museum in Alibagh, off Mumbai, which now houses under one roof, a range of his work in multiple disciplines and is open to public viewing on weekends.
His two exhibits with us are titled Curvature and Summer Afternoon, both gouache on board made in 1956 and 1957 respectively.