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Art and culture

Dina Nath Walli – A Renowned Water Colour Artist from Srinagar

Kashmir has been home to many talented people. Some names received global acclaim, while some names were buried in the pages of time. Here, we tell you the real life story of a Kashmiri artist who expressed himself through water colours, poetry, and music. He was Dina Nath Walli, a great water colour artist from Srinagar.

Early Years

Born in 1908, Dina Nath Walli lived in the Badyar Bala area of Srinagar. He lost his father at a very young age, and the family had to face financial problems. Most of this education was completed in Srinagar. His mother and maternal grandparents urged him to pursue education in arts. He completed a 3-year course in Fine Arts at the Amar Singh Technical Institute, after which he shifted to Calcutta. There, he acquired skills in several different forms of art, under the mentorship of Percy Brown, a British scholar and artist. In 1936, he came back to Srinagar and built a successful career in art. The beauty of nature in Kashmir is said to have inspired his artistic expressions.

Dina Nath Walli: A Great Water Color Artist

Landscape painting was his domain, and he mainly dealt in water colours. He had an understanding of Salvador Dali’s surrealism, Picasso’s Cubism, as also impressionism and expressionism. He was also aware of pop art and abstract art. Walli was a part of the modern art movement in Jammu and Kashmir. Through his art works, he portrayed the daily life of Kashmiris. His paintings can be called Impressionist. He is known to have created an album of 12 paintings.

Though Walli’s style of painting was impressionist, his form was unique. His works express a sense of longing and are mostly poetic. They depict the harmony between humans and nature. His paintings are of cultural significance today, as they are a reminder of the life in Kashmir back then. In his landscape paintings, he has beautifully portrayed Jhelum, Dal Lake, the mountains and trees, saffron fields, and even roads, bridges, shops and shrines in Kashmir. His paintings also depict how the city looked in different seasons. Thus, the folklore of Kashmir is brought back to life in his works of art.

In the 1950s, Walli was invited to be part of the Progressive Artists’ forum in Jammu and Kashmir. However, since he wanted to maintain his unique style, he did not accept the invitation. Between 1953 and 2004, he put up many art exhibitions across India. The first one was held in Srinagar and inaugurated by his mentor Percy Brown.

Dina Nath Walli: An Accomplished Poet

Walli can be called a poet-painter, because, apart from being an accomplished painter, he was also a noteworthy poet. He used the pen name Almast Kashmiri and wrote poetry in Urdu and Kashmiri languages. He is known to have recited his poems at mushairas where great poets used to be present. Walli published two poetry collections namely, Bala Yapari (This Side of the Mountains) in 1955 and Saharaavuky Posh (Desert Flowers) in 1978.

Walli’s Musical Inclination

This great Kashmiri artist was also inclined to music. He liked Sufiana music and could play the violin, flute, and sitar. He did solo shows in various Indian cities like Jammu, Delhi, Calcutta, Srinagar, Bombay and Pune, and in 2004, he performed in Kuwait.

Other Pursuits

Apart from painting, poetry and music, Walli pursued hobbies like swimming, trekking, boating and cycling. He is said to have started a trekking group and organized expeditions to nearby mountains.

Accolades

In 1939, Dina Nath Walli was honoured with gold medals by the government of Kashmir. The following year, he was awarded a highly commended medal from the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta. Recently, the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS) has started giving an award in his name. This award is given to emerging artists every year.

Thus, Dina Nath Walli is an important name in the fields of art and literature. He died in 2006, in Karnal and was survived by one son and three daughters. This renowned water colour artist from Srinagar shall be remembered for years to come, as one of the finest painters born and raised in the soil of Kashmir.

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