Murtaja Baseer, a pioneer of surrealist art in Bangladesh, dies at 88

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-08-15 10:28:19 BdST

Eminent artist Murtaja Baseer has died in hospital care after being diagnosed with the coronavirus infection at the age of 88.

He passed away during treatment in Dhaka's Evercare Hospital at 9:10 am Saturday, his family confirmed.

President Abdul Hamid led the tributes to the renowned artist following his death.

In a condolence message, Hamid said Baseer's death was an "irreparable loss" to the spheres of art and culture in Bangladesh.

Baseer was suffering from heart, lung, kidney and old-age ailments. Earlier, he was admitted to the ICU.

A funeral prayer for him will be held after the Zuhr prayers on Saturday after which, he will be laid to rest at the capital's Banani graveyard.

The son of Dr Muhammad Shahidullah, a famous linguist, Murtaja Baseer was born in Dhaka’s Ramna in 1932. He was the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Chattogram University.

A pioneer of surrealist art, Bashir has produced many famous paintings, including  'Dewal,' 'Shahid Shironam,' and 'Pakha’.

He made the first linocut painting titled 'Roktakto Ekushey'. His artworks include murals, block print and others.

Bashir published his anthology of poems 'Tatka Rokter Khinorekha' in both Bangla and English. In 1979, he published his first novel 'Ultramarine.'

He received the Ekushey Padak in 1980 for his contribution to art. He also received the Swadhinata Puroshkar in 2019.

Baseer began his formal education at the Nabakumar Institution in Dhaka. Later, he furthered his studies at the Coronation Institution in Bogura, the Dhaka Government Institute of Arts (now the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka) and the Asutosh Museum in Kolkata.

He also studied painting and fresco at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze in Italy and later on, mosaics and prints at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts and the Academy Goethe in Paris.

In 1978, at the invitation of the US government, he went on a month-long tour of museums and educational institutions in eight states.

Later, he visited various museums in India to research the ‘artistic traditions of Bengal’ under an ICCR fellowship programme. He also studied 'temple terracotta art' in India. 

Baseer started his professional career in 1955 as a drawing teacher at Nawabpur Government High School in Dhaka. He later joined Chattogram University in 1973 as an assistant professor in the Department of Fine Arts before his retiring as a professor in 1998.

Baseer took an active part in the political campaigns of the Communist Party in 1950 and would later spend five months in Dhaka Central Jail.

He was at the forefront of the Language Movement of 1952, the Liberation War of 1971 and the anti-authoritarian movement of the 1990s.

He made a linocut painting of the Feb 21 incident titled 'Roktakto Ekushey' which was first printed in 1953. It is considered the first painting on the Language Movement, according to the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.

Baseer married Amina Bashir in 1962. After losing his wife in 2017, he formed the Amina Bashir Memorial Trust.

He is survived by his three children.