Studying briefly at the Government School of Art, Calcutta, in the mid-1940s, Somnath Hore trained under artist Zainul Abedin, and, later, printmaker Saifuddin Ahmed. A participatory, collective practice with fellow artists like Chittaprosad led to his intellectual growth. In a thirty-year teaching career, he set up the printmaking department of the Delhi Polytechnic of Art, and nurtured students at Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan.
Hore chose a distinctly formal, Western style of artmaking, distinguished by its strong linear quality, and guided by humanist concerns as much as the need to depict the catastrophe-enduring figure. The 1943 Bengal famine and 1946 Tebhaga peasant uprising marked him, reappearing constantly in his works. Distilled into iconic heads and emaciated bodies, his act of recovering the erased re-inscribed them into public memory, with the anguished human form widely reflected in Hore’s figuration. The appeal of his bold, minimal strokes is increased by the rough surfaces, slits and holes. Hore’s early sketches were published in Janayuddha and People’s War, publications of the Communist Party. He was the quintessential Bengal artist deeply affected by the cataclysms that changed its social history, foregrounding in his works the working class and toiling peasant, grappling with issues of survival.