Born on 11 April 1887 in a landowning family in Bankura district of Bengal, Roy trained in European academic-realist painting at the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta, and began his career painting landscapes and portraits.
Soon, moving away from these, he started experimenting with a more indigenous visual vocabulary. Level surfaces, flattening of design in depth, and the use of dissonant primary colours were aspects of folk painting that Roy incorporated in his work. Also, he took up the volumetric forms of the Kalighat patachitras. However, unlike the spontaneous brushwork of the traditional patuas, Roy’s lines were more restrained and precisely delineated.
Roy would paint several versions of a subject, breaking and reforming the theme over months. Turning his family into a production unit, he tried to emulate a craft-guild mode of artistic production. He painted on a wide range of themes—common people, mythological tales, Christian iconography, as well as visual characteristics of home-sewn Bengal quilts and Byzantine icons.
Roy was awarded the Viceroy’s gold medal in 1935, the Padma Bhushan in 1955, and elected a fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1956. Declared a National Treasure artist in 1976, his works cannot be exported. He passed away on 24 April 1972.