Thailand loses another great artist

Thailand loses another great artist

National Artist Prayat Pongdam passed away early yesterday from heart failure. He was 79 and is survived by his wife and three sons.

Known as one of Thailand's great printmaking pioneers, Prayat was among the six artists chosen to illustrate His Majesty's book "Mahajanaka". His print of a rooster has also been featured on Thai postage stamps.

"Our father passed away this morning. Dad, you are in our hearts forever," his son Sayonpho Pongdan posted on Facebook yesterday.

Thailand lost another national artist, Thawan Duchanee, earlier this month and Prayat attended his cremation last week at Wat Thepsirin - the very temple where his royally sponsored funeral will be held under the royal patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. His Majesty the King has presented the royal coffin to honour the national artist.

The cremation will be held at 5pm on September 27.

"After National Artist Thawan Duchanee passed away, we never heard our father laugh. However, he never stopped creating art. His 2.4-by-2-metre woodblock, depicting lotus and the Bodhi tree, was nearly 90 per cent complete before his demise. It is on display in his private museum in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Chong district," the late artist's daughter-in-law Sumontra Pongdam said.

During the opening of his museum on March 15, Prayat told reporters: "I've been a teacher all my life. My students visit me even now that I've retired. My teaching spirit has never faded. I have opened this private museum for future generations, so they can learn how to work on print techniques."

Prayat was born in 1934 in Sing Buri province and earned his bachelor's in visual arts from Silpakorn University in 1957. Then in 1962, he earned a diploma at the Accademia di Belle Arti de Roma in Italy and later won an honour from the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence.

"We regret losing one of our great national artists," Chai Nakornchai, director of the Culture Ministry's Cultural Promotion Department, said. "Prof Prayat devoted himself to Thailand's art scene. To promote his life's work, the department recently visited his newly opened museum, Palazzo Pavone in Nakhon Rachasima, which is open to the general public."

Chai added that Bt20,000 (S$787) from the department's National Artist Fund will be contributed toward the late artist's funeral rites, and another Bt150,000 would be spent on producing books to promote the late artist's work.

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