The Bengal School of Art
Pratima Visarjan by Gaganendranath Tagore
In the early years of the 20th century there was a renewed upsurge of nationalist fervour. In the field of arts, there was a search to revitalise Indian cultural history and spirituality moving away from the pictorial vocabulary and techniques introduced by the British. The nationalist project in art was led by Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) and some enlightened Europeans such as EB Havell, the principal of the Government School of Art in Calcutta from 1896, and Sister Nivedita, an associate of Swami Vivekananda finding its inception at Bengal in 1907.
Moving away from oil painting and subjects that were popular with both the British and Indian intelligentsia, Abanindranath looked to ancient murals and medieval Indian miniatures for inspiration both for subject matter as well as indigenous material such as tempera. The orientation in the artistic outlook of Abanindranath created a new awakening in India and in turn reviving Indian art. The philosophy of a Pan-Indian art that he developed found many enthusiastic followers and this came to be known as the Bengal School. The art of the Bengal school was seminal to the growth of modern Indian painting. Some notable artists include his brother Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose,M.A.R.Chughtai, Manishi Dey and more. They sought to develop an indigenous yet modern style in art as a response to the call for ‘swadeshi’ with the aim to express Indian themes in a pictorial language that deliberately turned away from western styles such as those practiced by Raja Ravi Varma.