Manishi Dey was the younger brother of pioneering printmaker and watercolourist Mukul Dey, but was an accomplished artist in his own right. He initially specialised in the watercolour ‘wash’ technique and later experimented with oil paints and print techniques. He studied under Nandalal Bose and Abanindranath Tagore before going to Sri Lanka in 1920 and exhibiting his works in Colombo. His first solo show was in Calcutta in 1928, followed by many others throughout India, known primarily for his watercolours.
One of the most versatile artists of the Bengal School, he was a born rebel and bohemian, who drifted in search of new visual idioms, interacting with a wide cross-section of people while studying traditional Indian sculpture and architecture. His restlessness appeared a product of an indecisive time when India was still in search of her cultural identity and roots. In his career he imaginatively and skilfully experimented with cubist pictorial idioms and used rollers and spatula on different surfaces, a taboo for his Bengal School contemporaries.