In 1951, Sakti joined a five-year course in fine arts at the Government School of Art (now Government
College of Art & Craft) in Kolkata. He enjoyed the liberal atmosphere of the institution and made friends
with many of those who went on to make a name in the art scene. Kolkata was for Sakti, just a starting point.
Inspired by Van Gogh and the leading artists of Europe, Sakti wanted to dedicate his life to art the way they
had done. He said, “If I really wanted to make art my career, what I had learnt so far was not enough." With
his talent, hard work and ambition, he got admitted at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris. In
1956. Again persuaded by his three brothers, Adinath relented.
As to where Sakti gets the images in his paintings came from, Sakti reveals in his stories. Once he was
painting his son Nobu on to a canvas alongside other remembered figures, with a conch shell upon his son’s
head. The conch shell that stirs the memory of childhood in the cultural moorings of Bengal. For several
years, it kept appearing in his paintings, balanced almost always on Nobu’s head. The sitar, which sound his
father loved, was played by Sakti for the Customs in Madras, perhaps when he was lonely and perhaps to
earn himself some money. This caused him much embarrassment at Madras
Customs but had been a source of revenue during his student years in Paris.
Sakti had initially come to Paris for three years but had stayed long beyond that
and the Piccadilly Gallery commission had given him some money - not enough
to make him affluent but sufficient to make him comfortable. He decided to go
back to Kolkata and stayed there for a year. He travelled alone and leaving his
girlfriend Maite Delteil in consideration of the traditional society where he came
from, where the thought of an unmarried girl accompanying him would put
them both in a bad situation. He had an exhibition in the city where nothing sold
and another at the All India Fine Arts and Craft Society gallery in New Delhi
where two of his paintings found their buyers. His father was disappointed in
him and was worried how Sakti was going to make a living. Back in France,
galleries were still selling his work and there is still a demand from Piccadilly
Gallery in London. Once again, he came back, this time with the intent of
marrying Maité though he still has to convince the ‘bourgeois family’ she belongs
to of his intentions. They married in France in 1963. A decade later, Sakti seem
to have found his luck, an American couple - the Ferants - came across his work
and wanted to turn them into graphic prints and sell as editions. The works sold
very well and they wanted more watercolours. And now they wanted to turn it
into lithographs. Sakti regards lithograph particularly important as he found
himself in the august company of the artists he admired - Pablo Picasso, Joan
Miro, Georges Barque, Marc Chagall.
He won the Prix des Etrangers award in 1956. Some of the most recent solo
shows of his work include a retrospective at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi,
Mumbai, Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, and Dakshina Chitra, Chennai, in
2011 and 2012; Mumbai, in 2,009, 2011, 2006, 2001, 1990, 1988, 1977, 1970 and
1967; London and New York, in 2009; Art Musings, and Maison de I’Unesco,
in 2008. Burman’s works have also been featured at an exhibitions in Los
Angeles in 2001 and in New York in 2002; at the Rand Palais, Paris, in 1975 and
1994; and at the French Biennales in 1963, 1965 and 1967. The artist lives and
works in Paris.
Excerpt from the book Sakti Burman: The Wonder of it All published by Pundole
Art Gallery & Apparao Galleries in 2012.
- Prix des Estrangers, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1956
- Knight of the Legion of Honour, Government of France, 2016
- Medaille d’Argent au Salon de Montmorency