Tagore’s art school set to turn 100

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Htnation - Snigdhendu Bhat­tacharya Snigdhendu.Bhat­tacharya@htlive.com

Kala Bha­van of Vis­vaBharati, the art school in San­tinike­tan founded by Rabindranath Tagore, is set to turn 100. The sem­i­nal in­sti­tute will start its year-long centenary cel­e­bra­tions with an art walk and ex­hi­bi­tion on November 29.

“The centenary cel­e­bra­tion will see the sec­ond edi­tion of In­ter­na­tional Kala Mela (art fair), or­gan­ised by the New Del­hibased Lalit Kala Academy, taking place in San­tinike­tan in Fe­bru­ary 2019. Be­sides, an ex­hi­bi­tion of iconic works of the San­tinike­tan school of art will be held at New Delhi’s Na­tional Gallery of Mod­ern Art (NGMA) from the col­lec­tions of Kala Bha­van and NGMA in the sec­ond half of 2019,” said Goutam Das, prin­ci­pal of Kala Bha­van.

An­other ex­hi­bi­tion of the works of con­tem­po­rary stu­dents and teach­ers and fa­mous alumni will travel to Delhi, Ben­galuru, Mum­bai and Kolkata. A se­ries of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional work­shops will be held at the univer­sity town of San­tinike­tan through 2019.

Kala Bha­van is part of Vis­vaBharati, the cen­tral univer­sity that has the Prime Min­is­ter as the chan­cel­lor. Al­though art his­to­ri­ans have not been able to de­ter­mine the ex­act date of Kala Bha­van’s foun­da­tion for want of au­thor­i­ta­tive doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence, 1919 is con­sid­ered the year when the fine arts school started its jour­ney. Kala Bha­van had such stal­warts as Nan­dalal Bose, Asit Ku­mar Hal­dar and Suren­dranath Kar as teach­ers dur­ing its early years and later the likes of Jo­gen Chowd­hury.

The school is cred­ited with in­tro­duc­ing in In­dia an all-in­clu­sive vis­ual cul­ture, com­bin­ing var­i­ous forms of fine arts with crafts and blend­ing re­al­ism with ab­strac­tion.

“Kala Bha­van’s in­flu­ence on In­dia’s mod­ern vis­ual art scene was more than that of the Ben­gal school of the early 20th cen­tury Pro­gres­sive school (of Mum­bai) in the post-In­de­pen­dence area,” said R Siva Ku­mar, a cel­e­brated art his­to­rian and for­mer prin­ci­pal of Kala Bha­van.

Ku­mar said rulers and the high-and-mighty dom­i­nated as the sub­jects in the vis­ual arts of In­dia over the past few cen­turies – be it Mughal and Ra­jput court paint­ings or Euro­pean por­traits – while the Kolkata-based Ben­gal school, which is cred­ited with bring­ing mod­ernism in In­dian art in the early 20th cen­tury, turned to his­tory and mythol­ogy for sub­jects. “San­tinike­tan turned to the im­me­di­ate life around the artist – the space and the peo­ple around. So, we got paint­ings of farm­ers at work and sculp­tures of San­tal labour­ers,” said Ku­mar, now a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at Univer­sity of Car­leton in Canada.

Other than pa­per and can­vas, its stal­warts painted on walls and ex­te­ri­ors of build­ings, sculpted in the midst of fields and cre­ated large mu­rals. The school also de­vel­oped its own ar­chi­tec­tural style. Stu­dents were en­cour­aged to ex­plore na­ture and col­lab­o­rate with lo­cal crafts­men.

The school de­parted from the tra­di­tion of teach­ing stu­dents to be spe­cial­ists and in­stead taught var­i­ous forms to each in­di­vid­ual – paint­ing, sculp­ture, de­sign­ing, ar­chi­tec­ture, mu­rals and crafts – in a bid to de­velop ver­sa­til­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to Ratan Pa­ri­moo, who headed the depart­ment of art his­tory and aes­thet­ics at M S Univer­sity, Bar­oda, the foun­da­tion of Kala Bha­van con­sol­i­dated the pro­gresses of the Kolkata-based Ben­gal school led by Abanin­dranath Tagore and then ex­panded the hori­zon.

“The San­tinike­tan school is dis­tinct... San­tinike­tan, while in­sti­tu­tion­al­is­ing In­dia’s tra­di­tional roots, as­sim­i­lated the arts of dif­fer­ent parts of the world,” said Pa­ri­moo, an art his­to­ri­ans.


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