THE BENGAL RENAISSANCE

THE BENGAL RENAISSANCE

Author: Debashish Banerji Write To Author

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THE BENGAL RENAISSANCE AND THE BENGAL SCHOOL OF ART: REVIVIALISM OR MODERNITY?

 
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THE BENGAL RENAISSANCE AND THE BENGAL SCHOOL OF ART:
REVIVIALISM OR MODERNITY?

 

eBook by

Debashish Banerji

 

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© Debashish Banerji 2008

 

Even during the period of its formation, the question of whether the Bengal School of Art was a revivalistic school was hotly debated. To reconsider today whether the Bengal School was revivalistic, we have to consider if there is any consensus on what is the Bengal School. Is it definable in terms of a style or theoretical principles? Is it just an atelier, consisting of a master and his students? Is it isolated in space and time or is it a continuing tradition or a transhistorical potential?

The name "Bengal School" was not a form of self-identification. It was a later re-appellation of what had more commonly called itself the Oriental School of Art. At the time of its founding, it was the first modern self-conscious school of art in India, attempting to define itself in terms of identifiable principles that have become closely linked with India's struggle for political and cultural independence from the British.  Fostered and promoted by both British Orientalist and nationalistic interests, it rose in prominence to become the equivalent of a "national school" of art in the first two decades of the 20th century. 

Subsequently, its hegemony was challenged and it collapsed from national to regional status through its re-appellation as the "Bengal School." Presently, it has been further localized in time to a period of the early decades of the 20th century and in membership to the artist Abanindranath Tagore and his direct students.  However, a hazier understanding of the "Bengal School" also persists, expanding the envelope to include students of students of Abanindranath and those consciously or unconsciously continuing to create art along the lines laid down by the master and his original coterie. These include individuals practicing to this day, particularly in India, but by no means restricted to Bengal. 

The students of Abanindranath belonged to various parts of India and in the 20s, most of these students found employment as heads of art schools throughout India. Though with the reduction in popularity of its theoretical and stylistic concerns, the numbers of those who still profess affiliation to the school has sharply declined, it continues to retain complex and distinct self-identifying features so that a leading contemporary Bengali artist, Ganesh Pyne, who has not studied under the "lineage" of master or students comprising the school, can claim its membership for himself.

Debashish Banerji completed his undergraduate studies in English Literature from the University of Bombay. He served as a cultural correspondent with some of the leading English language newspapers in India. He completed a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Louisville, Kentucky and a Ph.D. in Indian Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles. From 1991 – 2005 Debashish served as president of the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angeles founded by Dr. Judith Tyberg. Debashish is part of the adjunct faculty of Pasedena City College teaching Art History. Presently, he is Educational Coordinator at the distance-learning graduate level University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles and is Director of the International Center for Integral Studies in New Delhi

 

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