Nandalal Bose (1822-1966) was an Indian painter of the Bengal school of art. Bose, a pupil of Abanindranath Tagore, was known for his “Indian style” of painting.
He was born on 3rd December, 1822 in a middle-class Bengali family of Kharagpur which was then a small town in the Monghyr district of Bihar. His father, Purnachandra Bose, worked in the Darbhanga Estate. His mother, Kshetramonidevi was a housewife. She had a skill to improve toys and dolls for young Nandalal. He took an interest in modelling images from his early days. He also took interest in decorating puja pandals later.
Nandalal came to Calcutta in 1897 to get his high school education from the Central Collegiate School. He also continued his college studies at the same institution.
In June 1903, he married Sudhiradevi who was the daughter of a family friend. He demanded to study art but his family did not give him permission. Losing interest in education he failed to qualify for promotion in his classes. He shifted to other colleges. He joined the Presidency College in 1905 to study commerce. But all went in vein. Finally his family let him study art at Calcutta’s School of Art.
He was profoundly influenced by the murals of the Ajanta Caves. He was also influenced by the Tagore family. He loved to paint scenes from Indian mythologies, women and village life. He created a black on white linocut print of Gandhi walking with a staff to mark the 1930 incident of Mahatma Gandhi’s arrest for protesting the British tax on salt. It was recognised as the symbolic image for the non-violence movement. His genius and original style gained fame.
He became the principal of Kala Bhavana, Shantiniketan in 1922. He sketched the emblems for the Govt. of India’s awards like the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Shri, etc. Along with his students, he performed the patriotic task of beautifying and decorating the original manuscript of the Constitution of India.
In 1954, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan. He became the second artist to be elected Fellow of the Lalit Kala Academy, India’s National Academy of Art in 1956. Viswabharati University gave him honour by conferring on him the title of Desikottam. The Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata honoured him with the Silver Jubilee Medal. He was awarded the Tagore Birth Centenary Medal by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1965.
Some of his disciples were Benode Behari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Bej, Pratima Thakur, Sovon Som, Johar Dasgupta and Sabita Thakur.
He passed away on 16th April, 1966 in Calcutta. The National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi preserves 7000 of his works in its collection.
The present essay, The Place of Art in Education is an extract from his original composition, Vision and Creation.
Language is a device to acquire knowledge through various branches of study. Literature, art, music and dance provide man with inner delight which he experiences with his mind and senses. But education in arts raises man’s knowledge and inner delight. This education in art, music and dance cannot be gained through reading and writing.
To ensure total development of the pupils, art training should be given more importance. But our universities do not have adequate provision for art training. It is wrongly believed that art is the exclusive monopoly of a few professionals. Even the educated class do not feel shame at not understanding art. They cannot apply their aesthetic sensibilities in their daily life. Our culture and aesthetics have grown worse only for them. So, they require education in art to set a standard for the common people.
People who have no sense of beauty evidently lead their disdainful standard of living in houses, courtyards, surroundings, walls, streets and railway coaches. They create a direct threat to mind and health of others. Nobody can taste aesthetic pleasure for them.
Some of us think that only the rich and the pleasure-loving can value a work of art. But they forget that its real value lies in sense of beauty and order, not in money. A poor santhal may have a greater sense of beauty and order in maintaining a household than a rich man’s son. The educated and the rich men often try to focus that they are the real lover of art. But their hostel rooms remain in disorder and their dress lacks taste and proportion, pointing their poverty in aesthetic sensibilities.
There are two sides of art – fine art and functional art. Fine art leads our mind from sorrows and conflicts of our daily lives to a world of aesthetic pleasure. On the other hand, functional art brings beauty to the objects of our daily use and provides us with means of livelihood. The decay of functional art results in our country’s economic decline.
The lack of art education keeps us away from our past heritage. We cannot find out the glory of our past painting, sculpture and architecture with our untrained eyes. We have to depend on foreign experts to ascertain their real value.
The means of developing art education are the observation and understanding of nature and good works of art with rapt attention under the guidance of experts. Each school and university should make art studies compulsory for students and provide time, environment and training for them. It will develop their power of observation and give them better insight into literature, philosophy and science.
The following are the ways to solve the problem of art education:
First, classrooms, libraries, studies and living rooms of students should display specimens of art.
Secondly, well-qualified people should write books on art for students.
Thirdly, film shows on art should be arranged.
Fourthly, students should be sent to museums and picture galleries with qualified teachers. A direct encounter with an object of art will arouse their aesthetic vision and sensibilities.
Fifthly, seasonal festivals like fruits display or flowers display should be held to get the students acquainted with nature. Those will provide them with materials for artistic creation.
Sixthly, students should be introduced to Nature’s own festival of the seasons. Once the students come close to nature, and learn to love it, their aesthetic sensibilities will never decrease.
Lastly, art-festival should be organised for the students. It will encourage them to develop a work of art with their own effort.
The essay is written by Nandalal Bose with an aim to improve the level of art-education in our country. The essayist is quite state forward and logical in his presentation of ideas. He feels the need to develop art-education to restore beauty, order and taste in our society.
The essay proves his power of analysis with suitable examples. It bears the touch of his genius. He makes the essay interesting by interpreting his ideas clearly without any exaggeration. He shows his sincerity and responsibility to the society by raising his voice on the development of art-education. When the whole country is immersed in materialism and selfishness, he plays the role of a pathfinder by offering a possible remedy to the present crises of art-education in India.