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Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) studied art under the famous artist Abanindranath Tagore. Nandalal played a major role in shaping the modern face of Indian art. His famous works include the painting titled Sati and Mahasweta. He sketched many of Rabindranath’s works such as Chayanika and Gitanjali. He also illustrated Rabindranath’s Sahaj Path.
In this extract taken from his notable work Drishti ar Shrishti (Vision and Creation), Nandalal attempts to revive the aesthetic sensibilities of his country. He discusses the importance of art education and the measures that could be taken to implement the same.
The Need for Art Education
Education in arts increases man’s knowledge and aesthetic experience and helps him express himself in various ways. This education in art, music and dance cannot be achieved through the medium of reading and writing.
The provisions that our universities make for education in arts is not enough. This is due to the general idea that art is exclusive and not for common people. While this country’s cultural life has expanded, its aesthetic sensibilities have grown worse.
People cannot differentiate between a painting and a photograph. They get amazed by Japanese dolls and German wrappers and treat them as artistic objects. They use tin containers in place of elegant earthen pitchers.
The educated public of this country and its universities are mainly responsible for this. The only solution is spreading art education amongst the so-called educated public, as they set the standards for the people at large.
The absence of a sense of beauty also harms man’s physical and mental well-being. Those who lack this sense and throw litter everywhere harm their own health and that of others.
Many think that art is the domain for the rich. They forget that the essence of art lies in its sense of beauty and order, not in its money value. A poor Santhal sweeps and mops his hut, stacks in order his earthen pots and tattered quilts, while an educated college student keeps his clothes and things in disorganised mess in his hostel room.
For the poor Santhal the sense of beauty is an essential part of his life, but for the rich man’s son it is superficial and lifeless. Regardless of whether we are rich or not, this widespread lack of taste is an indication of our poverty in aesthetic sensibilities.
Some ask if art will give us a livelihood. We should remember there are two sides to art- fine art and functional art. Fine art lifts our mind to a world of aesthetic delight, while functional art brings beauty to the objects of our daily use, and to our lives, and provides us with means of livelihood.
Our country’s economic decline is connected to the decay of its functional arts. So, to exclude art from our daily lives is harmful to the economic well-being of the country as well.
The lack of art education also makes us ignorant and insensitive to the glory of our past painting, sculpture and architecture. Even our present-day art does not get any recognition in our country until it finds approval in foreign markets.
The Basic Aspects of Art Education
The basic aspects of art education are the observation of nature and good works of art in order to understand them. Each school and university should provide a place for art studies and make it compulsory. Students should get the time and environment to get acquainted with Nature. Training in drawing will also be helpful.
Firstly, good paintings, sculpture and other specimens of fine and functional arts should be displayed in the class-rooms, libraries, etc. Secondly, we should get well-qualified people to write readable books on art. Thirdly, students should be introduced to selected examples of art through film. Fourthly, students should accompany qualified teachers to museums and picture galleries.
Fifthly, to get students into an encounter with Nature we should hold seasonal festivals, and we should try to familiarise students with the art and literature these seasons have given rise to. Sixthly, students should be introduced to Nature’s own festival of the seasons, to see the beauty of it.
Once the students get acquainted with Nature, and learn to love it, their aesthetic sensibilities will never deteriorate because Nature provides the source material for all artistic creation. Lastly, the school should have an art festival and each student should participate in it.
This chapter helps us understand the need for art education. Art education is necessary to improve our aesthetic sensibilities as well as for our well-being. Nandalal Bose sets out a few guidelines for the way that art education must be implemented in the educational institutions of the country.