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NANDALAL BOSE (1882-1966)
Gurudev
signed in Bengali (lower right); further bearing artist label 'ORIGINAL PAINTING OF NANDALAL BOSE SANTINIKETAN BIRBHUM WEST BENGAL, INDIA GURUDEV' (on the reverse)
ink on rice paper
38½ x 14 in. (97.8 x 35.6 cm.)
Executed circa early 1930s
Provenance
Formerly from the collection of the artist
Thence by descent

Lot Essay

The history of arts education in India begins with E. B. Havell, the Tagore family and Nandalal Bose. Havell arrived in Calcutta in 1896 to take charge of the Calcutta School of Art, and appointed Abanindranath Tagore as Vice-Principal in 1905. Havell published extensively, organized several exhibitions and along with Abanindranath, developed a style of art and art education based on Indian rather than Western models.

"In 1901 Rabindranath Tagore was able to fulfill his father's desire by establishing a school with a few students modeled after the old ashram system of ancient India. The retreat was called Santiniketan or the "abode of peace".

At the time of the foundation of the university in 1921, he declared that the aim of the university would be to adopt the best ideal of the present age along with all that was true and great in humanity." (P. Pal, G. Howe and E. O. Hoppes, Santiniketan Photographs from 1929, Mumbai, 2010, p.13)

Nandalal Bose, a student of Abanindranath, beginning in 1905, became a fixture in the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore, in 1919 appointed Bose as director of Kala Bhavan. Bose's vision for arts education is clearly seen in his essay Silpakatha (Speaking of Art) originally published in 1944.

"Man apprehends the world with his mind and senses, derives aesthetic delight and communicates this to others. Education in art heightens man's knowledge and aesthetic experience and trains him in various modes of expression.

If the objective of our education is total development, art training should have the same status and importance as reading and writing. But the provision that our universities make for this is sorely inadequate at present. It would seem that this is due to the general notion that art is the exclusive preserve of a few professionals and common people have nothing to do with it. When the educated do not feel any sense of shame at not understanding art, what question can there be for commoners?

A cursory look at our educational scene will reveal that, while this country's cultural life has fanned out, its aesthetic sensibilities have grown distressingly worse. Because our eyes are untrained we have remained ignorant and insensitive to the glory of our past painting, sculpture and architecture; foreign connoisseurs have had to come and expound it to us. To our shame, even our present day art does not get any recognition in our country until it finds approval in foreign markets. The roots of art education lie in the observation of nature and good works of art with dedicated attention, living in close contact with them and understanding them with the assistance of men with developed aesthetic sensibilities." (N. Bose translated by K. G. Subramanyan, Vision and Creation, Calcutta, 1999, p.11)

In 1956, Bose published Silpacarca (The Practice of Art) further elaborating on the techniques and practices of art from the classical to contemporary period and his curriculum for arts education at Santiniketan, including establishing an arts festival, continues today. Bose did not merely carry on Rabindranath's vision for Santiniketan, along with Abanindranath; he furthered the mission of the school and university and set into motion the development of modern art in India.
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