It is generally believed that artists are born and not made. But, however rich may be one's potentialities and natural aptitude, if one has to take up art as a career and life's mission, one needs proper environment and enlightened guidance during the formative period. He needs guidance in learning various techniques and in mastering draftsmanship. He has to get himself thoroughly acquainted with the rich inheritance of his land and of other countries. A social conscious ness in him should develop so that he may contribute to the aesthetic need of his fellow men. An art school is an institution where an artist in the making should get full scope to develop his personality in every respect.
In our country, systematic art training centres were established by the Britishers after their pattern of Art Education without any regard to the national outlook. The product of this academic training forms today the core of our artists and art teachers. The prevailing unsatisfactory system of Art Education is causing much anxiety to those who think of progress of art and culture in this country.
Those who believe in grinding the young creative minds in academic mills, strongly believe that during the students' training period they should learn to master draftsmanship, imitating nature as closely as possible. It is for this reason that subjects like solid geometry and visual perspective are taught compulsorily with such mathematical precision that many gifted and sensitive students find art in situations drab and discouraging. In order to acquire proficiency in drawing, the students are made to draw Grecco-Roman antiques with perfect accuracy. While teaching figure drawing students are made to follow the anatomical details so carefully that often their drawings lose all grace and beauty of human form. Even light and shade is followed in the photographic sense. As a result of this sort of training when they start pictorial compositions their aim would be to wards objective reality rather than towards subjective art of self expression. A full time teacher—perhaps with an established successful academic career, but who since then has ceased to be a practising artist,—all the while watching and instructing his student at every stage, deprives him of his individuality and thinking power. Such a teacher has no respect for the potentiality of the young artist and, instead, he pours into his brain his own ideas, outlook and sense of values. The products of such a training in their later life become, at the most, servile imitators of nature.
AB against the protagonists of this Western naturalistic school, there is another section which advocates a going back to the past traditions of the country. Such fanatics of national outlook instil in the young mind the necessity of blindly following the footsteps—the beaten track—of the past masters. For these conservatives all that is Western is bad. They force their students merely to follow the outlook of their forefathers with the aim of preserving the national character of art irrespective of the time in which they are living. The result of such a training would produce artists who are convention-bound and are filled with prejudices towards all that is progressive and experimental. This attitude is equally dangerous. For, however great may be the past achievement, one should not substitute oneself for the past, but one should add a new link to its chain. Tradition need not come as an obstacle to the growth of originality. On the contrary, a critical analysis of tradition and absorbing its great qualities might provide a richer background for the creative mind. "Raphael", said the French artist Renoir, "Was a pupil of Perugino, but that did not prevent him from becoming the divine Raphael". An art institution is not meant only for the exceptionally gifted ones. A genius, perhaps, can manage even without entering its portals. But, to a normally gifted student sympathetic and enlightened guidance is required in the early stages of his studies. This is a big responsibility on the part of the art educationists.
In contrast of the above two outlooks there is a small section of the intelligentsia who believe that the art school training with its rigid curriculum is detrimental to the development of the innate potentialities of art students. They are of the opinion that even the most talented young brains would tum quite prosaic and convention-bound if they do not get proper opportunity to develop themselves in the formative period. The best course, in their opinion, is to allow the students to study freely from the examples of the past and present masters and by coming into direct contact with the practising artists to study their techniques. Besides, they should have plenty of studies from nature as well so that this experience might serve them as a store of rich vocabulary might serve a writer. The students should have freedom to select their own medium, their own method of expression and thus develop their own personalities. There seems to be a lot of truth in this outlook. For copying the masters and by learning the theory one cannot handle the medium he chooses effectively nor master the various techniques he requires. But, if one attempts to learn by his own experiments, it would take a long period to achieve technical virtuosity which he other wise could master under the able guidance of an experienced artist in a comparatively short time. Before the British conquest or our country the younger artists used to work along with their masters as their apprentices. Today that tradition is lost. However, there is one art school, according to my knowledge, at Cologne in West Germany, where this novel idea is being put into practice. In that institution there is no fixed curriculum, no regular teaching, no examinations and, or course, no degree to be conferred upon the students. There are expert professors in that institution. But they merely create an atmosphere and allow the students to work on any subject they like in whatever medium they prefer. There are models, there are good examples shown and there are senior students working alongwith the juniors. The professors are ready to criticise their works and give guidance if required. Besides, those professors themselves keep engaged in their own creative work and the students thereby get inspired and share their experiences. To get admission into that centre one has to prove his natural aptitude for art. Besides, there being various sections such as fine art, applied art, craft classes, etc. the student can choose to work in the section of his liking.
To introduce such a system of Art Education in our country at this stage is rather impractical. For, here, there is not a sufficient number of museums with rich collections of past and present masterpieces. There are not enough enlightened art teachers to give the right direction and the art consciousness among the general public is quite low.
What then should be the objectives of professional education in art in our country?
lngres, the famous French artist known for his superiority in drawing once remarked, "Drawings are vivid abstractions from nature rendered in synthesised line". Even the masters of Ajanta, Moghul and Rajput Schools, though they did not pronounce their depth of vision in words, nevertheless left ample specimens which prove what a mastery over the rhythmical quality of essential lines in nature they possessed. The faith in our own tradition is of special value today when there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding over the various twentieth century art movements of the West. If our young artists should understand the meaning of Ingres' statement or the quality of the Indian masters' line and sense of design, our art school atmosphere and curriculum shall have to be changed. The course, according to which the art students are made to work in uninspiring class rooms, all the while facing lifeless antiques, stuffed birds, wooden cubes and cones and similar drab objects, must be scrapped. Set squares, T Squares, compasses and plumb lines should have no place in art school premises. Instead, the students should be guided to acquire mastery in draftsmanship more by observing and understanding nature and her abundant wealth of creation than by superficially imitating her outer forms. Subjects like anatomy and perspective should be taught not as isolated subjects by doctors and mathematicians but as integrated parts of the main course of training by art teachers. Various techniques should be demons treated before the students and they should be allowed to select their own. Professors who themselves are artists and art historians should teach the history of art so that the students can have a proper valuation of the art of different nations at different periods. Alongwith lectures the best relative specimens should be shown so that a healthy discussion on the aesthetic merits of those works might broaden the outlooks of the students. It should be the aim of the contemporary Indian artists that their creations should bear the distinctive national character combined with aesthetic value that would have an international appeal. The present method of conducting examinations and issuing diplomas or certificates would in no way determine the real merit of an art student.
Finally, an artist is a part of the society in which he lives. It is his obligation to serve his fellow men by contributing to their aesthetic need. He cannot isolate himself in his ivory tower and keep on indulging in his fancied intellectual exercises. An art school should also create social consciousness among its alumni. Thus, the main object of Art Education should be one of helping the gifted student to learn the grammar of his craft and develop his own personality so that he may reveal himself fully for the joy of his own self and also live as a useful citizen contributing his best for the growth of civilisation.
To provide training in draftsmanship with the help of Life models and Nature around and with the aid of chosen specimens of masterpieces stressing on the rhythmical quality of line and idealistic approach of form rather than on anatomical accuracy and apparent reality.
To impart general knowledge of various media and techniques such as water colour, gouache, tempera, oil colour and fresco painting, etc., and help the students to specialise in any medium or technique they prefer. Here again the country's past achievement should be the source of inspiration.
To acquaint students with the History of World Art from the pre-historic age to the present day in general and that of our country in particular with adequate examples and free discussions on their intrinsic merits leading to intelligent appreciation of the past glory and the present achievement.
To arouse social consciousness leading to the realisation of one's responsibility towards society and its welfare by contributing for its aesthetic need.