What was exceptional about Nandalal was his aesthetic integrity and his abiding vision. This vision identified the world as it is, the environment of nature, with the inner environment of mind and imagination. To Nandalal humanity was only a part of the Universal life and art, therefore, nature was re-experienced or revealed, a natural manifestation. Because of this implicit commitment, this cardinal concept, the best of Nandalal's works embody the spontaneity and explicitness of sentient life. The landscape is identifiable with nature as it manifests rhythm, the inherent principle of nature. Trees, birds in flight, the undulation of the land, distances, atmosphere, the mood project not only a pictorial reality but an emotive response as well. The delineation is direct at the same time it is interpretative and sensitive. (R. Bartholomew, 'Preface', Nandalal Bose Centenary Volume, New Delhi, 1983, p. 5)
A significant body of work depicting landscapes by Nandalal are inspired by the Japanese Sumi-e style of ink-painting. He was first exposed to the Sumi-e through the relationships and exposure to artists and scholars visiting the Tagore family from Japan. Okakura Kakuzo came to India and spent a year between 1901-02 and came back for the second time in 1912 when he gifted Nandalal a stick of ink from Japan. Yokoyama Taikan and Hishida Shunso came to India from Japan to undertake a mural commissioned by the King of Tripura in 1903 and were guests of the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore went to Japan in 1916 for the first time and later revisited the country in 1924 along with Nandalal. The artist's friendship with Arai Kampo from Japan further underscored his love for the Sumi-e. However, it was only towards the end of his life that Nandalal created most of his paintings of landscape in this style. He depicted scenes from nature that he conjured from memory. His visit to Puri inspired the paintings of the waves capturing the frolicking and yet forceful nature of water. The spirituality of his earlier works makes way to something which is subtly pervasive in these Sumi-e paintings - intensely personal and inward looking.
"Some of his last works recall from memory old images with a new kind of detachment and freedom and are abstract in the best sense of the word; spots of ink insinuate various visual facts, like lotus leaves on water, or flight of birds in the air without being too specific; loops of line build images of movements of cloud or water, now matted and dense, now open and free, now gay, now sad and moody." (K. G. Subramanyan, 'Nandalal Bose: A Biographical Sketch,' Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) Centenary Exhibition, New Delhi, 1983, p. 25)