Hauz Khas Village, 16 October – 10 December 2015
The Art of Santiniketan showcases the work of its four chief artists—Santiniketan’s founder, Rabindranath Tagore, its first principal and the architect of the Santiniketan pedagogy, Nandalal Bose, and his two illustrious students who went on to make a name for themselves as highly original and significant artists—Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij. Santiniketan was a path-breaking educational institution Rabindranath Tagore set up in rural Bengal in the early twentieth century, and the exhibition begins by examining its genesis in Tagore’s radical ideas of basing education in freedom and in the midst of nature.
This philosophy played a central role in ushering the radical modernism that emerged from its art department, Kala Bhavana, set up in 1919 under the stewardship of Nandalal Bose. The exhibition examines this modernist ethos, with its integration of art and craft in the arts curriculum, shedding light on the significant modernising elements that marked a shift from the revivalism of the Bengal School and the academic realism then practiced at various art schools.
Under Bose’s pioneering guidance, Santiniketan’s art gave primacy to individual expression and each of its significant artists added to the range and depth of artistic concerns and expressions that emerged from it. Nandalal Bose ushered critical practices in his teaching and his own art; Benode Behari Mukherjee created landmark murals and expanded the imaginative and technical reach of his art despite his poor eyesight; Ramkinkar Baij’s monumental, open-air sculptures radicalised the notion of public art, and Tagore, despite starting late in life as an artist, revolutionised set notions with his intensely personal, essentially unlearnt art—and what Santiniketan achieved, thus, is a wide range of artistic practices without the tyranny of an overarching ideology.