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The Bengal School of Art - An Indian Legacy
By Simone Mody
19 Mar 2021
India as a country and culture is a motley of various forms of art which dates back to centuries ago. Being one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, Indian art has been constantly evolving based on the socio-economic catalysts prevailing at a particular time. Art can be seen in every walk of life from mammoth structures such as temples, stupas, cave paintings and sculptures of a bygone era, to the more contemporary paintings and visual art forms of the current times.
The Bengal School of Art is a noteworthy movement that took place during the early 20th century when India was under the British Raj. Founded by Abanindranath Tagore, this movement was associated with Indian Nationalism more specifically by the Swadeshi movement as a revolt against the tyranny of the British that posed a threat to Indian sensibilities and to revive traditional art forms. The Bengal school of art paved the way for the Progressive Artists Group which now constitutes a major portion of the Modern Indian artists.
Rabindranath Tagore is a name revered in the Indian art realm from time immemorial. He was a poet, song composer, novelist, essayist and painter. His life works evoke a unique sense of universalism and have been instrumental in shaping the ideology of Modern India. These are undoubtedly national treasures, for Rabindranath Tagore inspired and continues to inspire many artists till date.
Another noteworthy artist who helped define the face of art in Modern India is Gaganendranath Tagore. Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore and brother of Abanindranth Tagore, he was a painter and cartoonist who expressed his dismay in the form of witty and comical portrayals of the misdeeds of society. His satirical oeuvre aimed to bring focus on the racial discrimination faced by Indians and the casteism between the various segments of the society. His works became the poster child of the social enlightenment of the masses as they highlighted grave ideas through a light-hearted medium of comedy.
The Bengal school of art nurtured many other artists such as Jogen Chowdhary, Bikash Bhattacharjee and Hemendranath Mazumdar, to name a few.
Jogen Chowdhary has mastered the art of lines which is a vital element of Indian Art Heritage. His works such as “Story of a woman” and “Woman with mirror” have portrayed the sentimental nuances of his subjects which elaborately narrate a moment in their lives. He is also known for larger-than-life paintings which have served as narratives for his thoughts and expressions.
Bikash Bhattacharjee’s artworks have an almost eerie aura that keep the spectator captivated in their thoughts and transport them into the moment in which his subjects seem to be engrossed in. His works “On new look” and “Dawn” are the paradigm of realism in Indian art - an art form revived by the artist in a period when other artists were leaning towards abstractionism and distortion.
Hemendranath Mazumdar was another artist who mastered the form of realism. He changed the way women were depicted and invented a new style of figure painting. A notable artist of the rebel Jubilee Art School, he co-founded the Indian Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata along with his contemporaries to spread the reach of art within the society. He was one of the most sought-after artists who worked on oil portraits, by royalty and common folk alike.
AstaGuru’s upcoming Modern Indian Art Auction will witness artworks by these renowned artists, some of which are national treasures - a 1930 untitled painting by Rabindranath Tagore and ‘Metamorphosis’ by Gaganendranath Tagore.
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