Artist Sakti Burman has been conferred with the prestigious Knight of the Legion of Honour for his extraordinary work, located at the confluence of French, European and Indian cultures, and the enduring relations he has established between France and India.
French ambassador to India Francois Richier bestowed the honour on the 81 year old artist in a ceremony here late last evening.
"This goes to you because of your strong relation with France and because France is such an important part of your life whether it is because you lived in France or because you married Maite, but also because you are an artist of universal resonance and value," the ambassador said.
He said that three words - love, dream and hardwork - came to his mind that best reflected what Burman had achieved and continues to achieve in his artistic career.
Burman, who was born in the present day Bangladesh, obtained his primary education in art from the Government College of Art and Craft, Kolkata after which seeing his persistent desire for painting, his father and brother sent him to Paris for higher education.
"Thank you government of France for honouring me with this award. During the college days I read lots of books on the lives of impressionist artists like Van Gogh and their struggle to continue painting inspired me and I decided to live like them," he said while accepting the award.
The artist has had a long standing relation with the European country, where he has been living for over five decades now. Not only did he pursue his higher education in art from Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but also married French painter Maite Delteil.
The influence of both his growing years in India and those spent in France come alive in his works such as when he draws a parallel between the biblical tale of Noah's Ark and the Samudra Manthan that appears in several Hindu mythological narratives in the same painting.
The artist's moment of epiphany that resulted in the recurrent appearance of an amalgamation of both the cultures in his works was during one of his visits to India when he visited several historical sites including Ajanta Ellora, Sanchi Stupa, Khajuraho and Konark.
"Now I realise how important was that visit was for me. Unconsciously I had developed an impression of my Indian culture mixed with the culture of France. Today, I feel happy that my work of these years have been appreciated and I am being honoured with this award," he said.
The Legion d'Honneur, created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipients.
A short flm on Burman detailing the life of the artist both in India and France was also screened on the occasion.