Shyamal Dutta Ray's body of work constitutes a major turning point in the history of the Bengal school of art. Ray is credited with adding depth and intensity to the medium of watercolours, at a time when the Bengal school of Art traditionally used light and watery colours. His melancholic and pensive works reflect the contradictions of life around him.
Regarded as a master watercolourist, Ray is also a founding member of the Society of Contemporary Artists, an artists' collective, that sought to introduce innovativeness into the art world of the 1960s. Most of Ray's work reflects the city life of Calcutta, with its happiness and sorrow, struggle and strife, poverty and hope. The works also exhibit a sense of irony, surrealism and awareness of a disintegrating society.
Shyamal Dutta Ray studied at the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta. He has received many honours: the Award of Merit from the Lalit Kala Academy, the Shiromani Kala Puraskar, and the Special Commendation of the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishad. His works have been exhibited in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore. He has participated in international shows such as the Third World Biennale of Graphics, London, and the Havana Biennale, Cuba, to mention a few. His works are in the collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Glenbarra Museum, Japan.