Ram Kumar Bhaukaji, a painter who chose to remain away from the public eye all his life, passed away on July 21. He was 71.
Born in Ramechhap district, Bhaukaji was drawn to art from an early age. He had an innate instinct for art, says his brother Bimal. “He liked to draw and paint anything and everything around him.”
Bhaukaji was an introvert and expressed himself largely through his paintings. “He was different from everyone else in the family. Art was his escape and his only companion,” adds Bimal.
It became apparent that Bhaukaji was destined to become an artist when he held his first exhibition in his hometown of Sanghutar, Ramechhap, on March 7 and 8 in 1973. Six years later, he went on to exhibit his painting collection titled ‘My Nepal’ at Nepal-Bharat Pustakalaya (then known as Nepal-Bharat Sanskrit Kendra) in Kathmandu—an event which was inaugurated by BP Koirala.
In the 1980s, he went to Moscow, Russia, to study fine arts and returned with a doctoral degree in 1987. He continued to paint and exhibit his works after coming back to Nepal.
Despite gaining considerable renown as an artist, Bhaukaji was never comfortable with fame. He never sold his paintings and left behind nearly 3,000 of his works to his family.
“He used to give away his paintings as gifts but he simply refused to sell them,” says Bimal. “Art for him was the purest form of passion and expression. It was never about making money.”
Bhaukaji lived his life doing what he loved the most and never expected anything in return. He even rejected awards and positions. He had famously turned down Araniko Puraskar and the position of chief of the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts.
Bimal calls his artist brother “the most authentic person” he has known.
During his lifetime, Bhaukaji also wrote numerous articles on art, culture and history. In 2021, he published three books, ‘Juddhakala Pathsala’, ‘Shrasta Kulmansingh Bhandari’ and ‘Nepali Kalakar Ko Samasya’.
Bhaukaji led a carefree life and remained a lifelong bachelor. Painting was all he cared about. “He survived on just tea and biscuits for days, all the while transfixed in his work,” says Bimal.
Bhaukaji’s health had started deteriorating in recent years following a diagnosis of prostate cancer. He passed away at his New Baneshwor residence after a long illness. He is survived by his family—and his priceless paintings.