Kala Bhavan, the fine arts school of Visva-Bharati university, is credited with introducing in India an all-inclusive visual culture, combining various forms of fine arts with crafts and blending realism with abstraction..(HT Photo)
Kala Bhavan, the fine arts school of Visva-Bharati university, is credited with introducing in India an all-inclusive visual culture, combining various forms of fine arts with crafts and blending realism with abstraction..(HT Photo)

Rabindranath Tagore’s art school Kala Bhavan set to turn 100

Kala Bhavan is part of Visva-Bharati, 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, 1919 is considered the year when the fine arts school started its journey.
By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON NOV 11, 2018 08:01 AM IST

Kala Bhavan, the fine arts school of Visva-Bharati university founded by Rabindranath Tagore, is set to turn 100. The 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 Delhi-based 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. A series of national and international workshops will be held at the university town of Santiniketan through 2019.

Kala Bhavan is part of Visva-Bharati, 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 stalwarts like Nandalal Bose, Asit Kumar Haldar and Surendranath Kar as teachers during its early years and later the likes of Jogen Chowdhury. It produced students of the stature of Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij and K G Subramanyan.

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,” said R Siva Kumar, former principal of Kala Bhavan.

“Santiniketan turned to the immediate life around the artist — the space and the people around,” said Kumar, now a visiting professor at University of Carleton in Canada. 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.

Ratan Parimoo, who headed the department of art history and aesthetics at MS University, Baroda sai, “The Santiniketan school is distinct. The other major schools in the colonial megacities were more influenced by European modern art. Santiniketan, while institutionalising India’s traditional roots, assimilated the arts of different parts of the world.”

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