Catching the wave: An untitled work by Ramkinar Baij.(DAG Modern)
Catching the wave: An untitled work by Ramkinar Baij.(DAG Modern)

The Art of Santiniketan excerpt: Keeping true to its spirit

The Art of Santiniketan documents essays, interviews and profiles of Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij, Benode Behari Mukerjee and Rabindranath Tagore. This excerpt from the beautifully produced volume’s introductory essay places things in context.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 07, 2015 11:33 AM IST

The Art of Santiniketan

Edited by Kishor Singh

DAG Modern

Rs 6000; PP350

Is there an art ‘of’ Santiniketan? The entire premise for this volume hinges on that one question. And while there clearly is art ‘from’ Santiniketan, it is the possessive preposition that raises premises and hackles. For there to be an art of Santiniketan, it would have to be atypical, something tied down or governed by principles of style, ideology, subject or conviction. Santiniketan ticks none of these points principally because it believes in its belief of freedom from straitened expressions or obeisance to rigid principles and thinking. In being liberal and unorthodox, it is at a remove from the hegemony of other art schools, or collectives, and can breathe free of restrictions and conscripts.

And, yet, there definitely is a voice and place that Santiniketan occupies that is distinctive. In propounding an art department in a university in the Bengal countryside, Rabindranath Tagore prescribed an adherence to nature as one of its intents. Kala Bhavana was set up on the supposition and has remained true to its spirit, however it may have changed, or digressed, in the intervening years.

But, mostly, it is in the practice and philosophy of its art, artist and teachers that one sees an art ‘of’ Santiniketan that can be so characterized. These four artists - the founding principal of the art school, Nandalal Bose, its alumni and faculty, Ramkinkar Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee, and the poet-playwright who morphed into an artist late in his life, Rabindranath Tagore - are organically associated with the university town. But do they have anything else in common?

Book cover for The Art of Santiniketan.
Book cover for The Art of Santiniketan.

Four more different people might be difficult to imagine: Nandalal Bose, the gentle and elegant artist-teacher; Ramkinkar Baij, stubborn, primal, a genius; Benode Behari Mukherjee, ailing for most of his life but with an amazing visual memory; and Rabindranath Tagore, globally travelled and celebrated, a Nobel-laureate, unafraid to test the boundaries set up by conservative establishments. It is these four artists who left behind an indelible stamp of individuality on the art practice of Santiniketan, breaking the shackles of previously popular styles to create a bold, new language that grew out of the native soil of Santiniketan but was powerful enough to sweep away resistance and find acceptance anywhere in the world.

The challenge lay in defining and, eventually, confining the extent to what ‘Santiniketan’ represents in the sense of visual art…

That art is signified by the four artists mentioned above, and it is their wok that is represented in this book, and exhibition. Each of these artists marks a radical change in the way art was practised at the time. It breaks from a past, whether real or imagined; it shifts its focus from mythology and history to involve itself with the rhythm and daily lives of people from the immediate countryside; it rejects stylisation in favour of expression; it collaborates with materials that are easily available locally or in the region: it refuses to be burdened by an ideology other than a need to be ‘Indian’ without attributions of a national identity to weigh it down.

Read: Hubris explores why economists fail to predict financial crisis

The work of these fours artists is too well known to require comment here. Suffice it to say that Nandalal Bose, trained under Abanindranath Tagore and an exemplar of the Bengal ‘School’ traversed the change with confidence and assumed a role that would change the way we looked at Indian art forever; to limit him to a pre- and post-Bengal ‘School’/Santiniketan discourse would be to confine his genius that straddled these phases but remained free of them, continuing to change and experiment late into his career as an artist.

Ramkinkar Baij is probably India’s first truly maverick modernist who broke all norms in his art and life and whose life needs to be better documented for generations to follow. Benode Behari overcame the hurdles of his sight impairment to create works that are colossal - not in scale but in imagination, unfettered by any language. As for Tagore his genius can hardly be confined to his art, even for the purpose of this book, and must at least be weighed against his architectural quest and curiosity…To this extent, The Art of Santiniketan represents the free-spiritedness and liberating atmosphere of Santiniketan itself.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)
Myth, relations between India and China, and reflections on the identity of an ethnic group feature on this week’s list of good reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting books of the week

By hindustantimes.com
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:46 PM IST
This week’s list of compelling reads includes a collection of myth and folklore, an account of relations between India and China, and an anthology that reflects on the identity of an ethnic group displaced by Partition.
Close
Naipaul is not a contributor but his prickly presence can be sensed in the collection:VS Naipaul in a picture dated 9th November, 1968.(John Minihan/Getty Images)
Naipaul is not a contributor but his prickly presence can be sensed in the collection:VS Naipaul in a picture dated 9th November, 1968.(John Minihan/Getty Images)

Review: The Book of Indian Essays edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

By CP Surendran
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:36 PM IST
Many of the well-known essays in this anthology still look and feel new.
Close
Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni(Courtesy the publisher)
Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni(Courtesy the publisher)

Interview: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Author, The Last Queen

By Simar Bhasin
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:27 PM IST
The author says she wanted to present Queen Jindan Kaur, regent of the Sikh empire from 1843-46, and mother of the last Maharaja, Dalip Singh, in all her complexity and humanness
Close
Lalitha Lajmi with Yasser Usman, author of Guru Dutt; An Unfinished Story.(Yasser Usman)
Lalitha Lajmi with Yasser Usman, author of Guru Dutt; An Unfinished Story.(Yasser Usman)

Essay: Frozen in time and memory; Conversations with Guru Dutt’s sister

By Yasser Usman
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:27 PM IST
Yasser Usman writes about Lalitha Lajmi’s contribution to his book, on the film maker.
Close
Over the course of his career, spanning nearly fifty years, Archer has published over 37 titles and sold over 275 million copies around the world.(Wikimedia Commons )
Over the course of his career, spanning nearly fifty years, Archer has published over 37 titles and sold over 275 million copies around the world.(Wikimedia Commons )

Jeffrey Archer returns to HarperCollins in major three-book deal

ANI, New Delhi [india]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:17 PM IST
HarperCollins is delighted to announce a major three-book deal for World English Rights with internationally bestselling author Jeffrey Archer.
Close
William Shakespeare 's play Macbeth - Act I Scene III: The Three Witches. Artist: Richard Westall; engraver: Stow.(Getty Images)
William Shakespeare 's play Macbeth - Act I Scene III: The Three Witches. Artist: Richard Westall; engraver: Stow.(Getty Images)

Review: Weird by Olga Khazan

By Sankar Ray
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:09 PM IST
A semi theoretical look at weirdness that includes multiple types of outsider narratives.
Close
"I am a product of traditional India and its ancient wisdom, and modern India and its urban bustle. My upbringing was always an amalgamation of the two Indias, and, just as much, of East and West," the 38-year-old actor said in a statement.(Amazon)
"I am a product of traditional India and its ancient wisdom, and modern India and its urban bustle. My upbringing was always an amalgamation of the two Indias, and, just as much, of East and West," the 38-year-old actor said in a statement.(Amazon)

Priyanka Chopra Jonas' memoir 'Unfinished' to release in February

PTI, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 10:31 AM IST
Actor-producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas' long-awaited book debut, "Unfinished", will hit the bookshelves on February 9, publisher Penguin Random House India announced on Thursday.
Close
“The interest in the book is the result of a renewed desire to understand a U.S. that is in the midst of a civil cold war,” said Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.(Bloomberg)
“The interest in the book is the result of a renewed desire to understand a U.S. that is in the midst of a civil cold war,” said Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.(Bloomberg)

A $2,500 book on US decline is suddenly a must-read in China

Bloomberg, China
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 11:58 AM IST
After chaos engulfed the U.S. Capitol last week, some Chinese intellectuals found themselves searching for copies of an out-of-print book to make sense of events. “America Against America” forecast the U.S.’s decline due to domestic conflicts more than 30 years ago.
Close
A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)
A book on the effect of India’s lockdown, and volumes on two personalities - a forgotten freedom fighter, and an auteur of Hindi cinema -- are on this week’s list of recommended reads.(HT Team)

HT Picks: The most interesting reads of the week

By HT Team | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:50 PM IST
This week’s reading list features a book on a forgotten freedom fighter who also did much for immigrant rights in the US, another on a legend of Hindi cinema, and a volume on the devastation the lockdown has wreaked on India’s poor
Close
Author Pallavi Raghavan(Courtesy HarperCollins)
Author Pallavi Raghavan(Courtesy HarperCollins)

Interview: Pallavi Raghavan, Author, Animosity at Bay: An Alternative History of the India-Pakistan Relationship

By Chintan Girish Modi | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:44 PM IST
We will have a calmer relationship with our history if we understand that the past cannot be used to justify and perpetuate the grievances of the present
Close
Another taut courtroom drama: A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift as Michael Logan and Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson.(Corbis via Getty Images)
Another taut courtroom drama: A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift as Michael Logan and Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson.(Corbis via Getty Images)

Review: A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

By Percy Bharucha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:40 PM IST
In A Time for Mercy, John Grisham looks at the fundamental questions behind the motives to murder while chronicling the impact of race on the system of justice
Close
MS Subbulakshmi’s rendition did much to popularise the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.(HT Photo)
MS Subbulakshmi’s rendition did much to popularise the Venkatesa Suprabhatam.(HT Photo)

Review: Venkatesa Suprabhatam by Venkatesh Parthasarathy

By Rahul Jayaram | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 09:53 PM IST
This book on Venkatesa Suprabhatam, a famous morning prayer, gives us a close reading of the text, the discourses that inform it, its influence, and its many meanings
Close
“Mowgli’s story is so intriguing because it allows us to see a human child from the perspective of other species,’ says Alter, author of Feral Dreams: Mowgli & His Mothers.
“Mowgli’s story is so intriguing because it allows us to see a human child from the perspective of other species,’ says Alter, author of Feral Dreams: Mowgli & His Mothers.

A retelling of Jungle Book without the colonial baggage

By Paramita Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 08:44 PM IST
Stephen Alter sets the Rudyard Kipling classic in a newly independent India, and has Mowgli, renamed Daniel, working at MIT.
Close
Death is inevitable, and yet passing over needn’t come as a surprise or scary chapter, as we’ve learnt from the 2017 film Coco.(IMAGE COURTESY PIXAR)
Death is inevitable, and yet passing over needn’t come as a surprise or scary chapter, as we’ve learnt from the 2017 film Coco.(IMAGE COURTESY PIXAR)

In a new book, insightful thoughts on readying for life’s final exam

By Dipanjan Sinha | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:36 PM IST
Arun Shourie’s Preparing: For Death offers advice on last days, and explores the end as an opportunity to move on rather than an occasion to fear.
Close
Siddhartha Lal at the roll-out of the first bike from the Oragadam plant in Tamil Nadu.(Photo courtesy Eicher Motors)
Siddhartha Lal at the roll-out of the first bike from the Oragadam plant in Tamil Nadu.(Photo courtesy Eicher Motors)

The Enfield journey: A new book explores a bumpy ride into history

By Paramita Ghosh | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:19 PM IST
Amrit Raj’s Indian Icon: A Cult Called Royal Enfield takes a look at the challenges and deft moves that have gone into building the motorcycle brand.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP