The first solo show of Gujarat Samachar’s much-loved cartoonist, 75-year-old N R Manvar

NR Manvar, one of Gujarat Samachar’s most popular cartoonists, spent over 50 years of his life drawing illustrations. 150 of the Amreli-born cartoonist’s best works were exhibited in Ahmedabad at his first solo show.

Left to Right: Krishna Arya and N R Manvar

Just like master artist Paresh Maity escaped from his home to pursue his love of art, illustrator Natvar R Manvar fled from his family’s agriculture occupation in Amreli as a teenager to come to Ahmedabad and pursue art. Young Manvar, who was inspired to make art while watching someone draw near a cycle shop, financed his art education at CN School of Fine Arts by working as a mill labourer at night. While his days as a struggling art student were tough, his nights were even tougher. In those initial years of struggle, Manvar not only had to support his family back in Amreli but also had to sustain a life with a wife and children in Ahmedabad. But “Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle,” as American author Napoleon Hill would say, and Manvar’s stringent efforts paid off eventually. He joined the world’s highest-selling Gujarati newspaper Gujarat Samachar as an illustrator in 1984 under chief artist Deepak Chauhan. His life was never again the same.

On the opening day of his first solo exhibition of Illustrations and Drawings, the 75-year-old illustrator shared this inspiring tale from his life. More than 150 original illustrations by Manvar were open for public viewing until January 27 at the Herwitz Gallery next to Amdavad Ni Gufa.

An onlooker glances at N R Manvar’s illustrations at his first solo exhibition

Budding artist Krishna Arya, who has been practising under the mentorship of Manvar since the past 12 years, carefully selected the final 150 drawings on display at the show out of a collection of more than 4000 drawings. After a lamp lighting ceremony marking the public opening of the exhibition on January 22, Arya said, “While putting this whole exhibition together, I discovered that the man has spent over 50 years of his life drawing more than 1lakh pictures. Surprising isn’t it!” The show’s opening was graced by the presence of visual art critic and painter Natu Parikh, Former Vice Chancellor of Gujarat University Dr Chandrakant Mehta, senior journalist of Gujarat Samachar Yashwant Mehta, various art-lovers of Ahmedabad and Manvar’s family members.

The inaugural ceremony of NR Manvar’s first solo exhibition

The plasticity of Manvar’s creative thoughts is visible in every hand-drawn illustration displayed at the exhibition, most of which have previously been published in Gujarat Samachar newspaper or in its Ahmedabad-based supplements like Ravi Purti(Sunday edition), Shatdal (Wednesday edition) or Zagmag (Saturday children’s edition). The expressive hand-drawn characters were all thoughtfully created by Manvar, in good quantity every day, while keeping the newspaper’s to-be-published stories in mind. This led him to create his own art bank eventually.

During a one-to-one interaction, the illustrator shared how he is slightly concerned about the new generation of illustrators who predominantly use computers to make characters in their art. “An artist who is creating an impression of a cartoon should know the composition by heart and hand-draw it rather than trace it or directly edit it on the screen,” he said. Manvar’s cartoons ketches are often extensively based on Bollywood celebrities and political icons. They have a typical semi-realistic humorous style, like heads bigger than the characters’ bodies, funny facial expressions and curious anatomical postures. Looking at his drawings, one can feel how they must have added a dash of creativity to articles in those times.

I found myself becoming nostalgic as I saw Manvar’s signature under every deftly created illustration at the exhibition. Although I now read English newspapers, I still remember ardently going through every printed drawing in Gujarat Samachar at one time.

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