The degree of civilization of a people is determined by the prevailing socio economic conditions which include the aesthetic sensibility i.e., the capacity to appreciate everything artistic and beautiful and to create objects of Art. India had achieved a comparatively advanced form of aesthetic expression in the past. The history of Indian sculpture and painting dates back to five thousand years. In painting we have a complete and comprehensive record of highly developed techniques. The sculpture of the mediaeval period had shaped the character of our Architecture. This rich heritage in the field of fine arts, representing a unique standard of attainment, has cast upon us a heavy responsibility. We have not only to preserve this valuable heritage for posterity (without allowing it to deteriorate) but also to produce more valuable artistic and cultural treasures as our own contribution to posterity. This is no mean task. It calls forth for tremendous efforts on the part of all of us who are working in the field of fine arts today.
I would like to quote in this connection the following resolution passed at the Calcutta Art Conference sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Government of India in the year 1949:
“This Conference views with concern the progressive deterioration in public taste and aesthetic standard and considers that one of the reasons for this decline is the exclusion of Art form, or the inferior status given to it, in General Education.”
Due to great socio-economic and political upheavals in the country, very little attention was given towards the development of Art and aesthetics of the country. It was only in the beginning of this century that the Bengal School of Artists revived our old traditions in art and crafts. It was inevitable for our artists to be influenced by Western techniques. While delivering the inaugural address at the 15th All India Fine Arts Exhibition at Hyderabad recently, Dr. Gulam Yazdani pointed out that, “in the 19th century the Art Schools at Calcutta and other provinces were established with European artists as Heads of Institutions. Thus Indian Art came to be practised on Western style and system, which lays much stress upon anatomical precision rather than the feeling and emotions. The beauty in Indian Art lies in the depiction of inner feeling and emotions rather than the delineations of outer form. The appreciation of Art through the beauty of outer form is artificial and mechanical”, more so in the practice of it.
A thorough and devoted study is necessary in this line, keeping in view the traditions and the academics, which can make one an artist, worthy of name. There are no shortcuts to this.
We are now in the midst of an economic and social revolution. As part the latter, steps are being formulated after due investigation for improving the prevailing system of education as well as Art Education, so as to fit in the pattern of the present day life and make the alumni of the art institutions as effective citizens and equip them to be of service to the country in their respective chosen fields. In this context, it is but proper that the future pattern of Professional Art Education and its objectives are considered deeply.
Perhaps it will be more effective if our Art Education is re-organised based on the fundamentals of the old system, where a long period of training and apprenticeship under a learned Guru, was considered to be the only way by which the pupil could aspire for any contribution. It is therefore important that the taught become a disciplined lot, whose aim during their career should be to grasp the instructions of the master both in spirit and letter, with confidence. It is worth while to remember that “there cannot be any great Art without discipline and discipline without sacrifice”. It is this, which is perhaps lacking in the present day pupils of art institutions (it is applicable perhaps to other schools as well, I believe) and it is this danger which requires remedy.
Perhaps it will not be untrue to say that every one in general possesses an instinct for artistic expression and appreciation since childhood and it has to be drawn out and developed. Art Education therefore should start from the lowest standard of education. Art Education, to be effective and complete, should form an integral part of general Education in all stages from the Primary to the University stage. The essential function of such education may be regarded as development of creative ability in a student and a means to infuse in him an appreciation of beauty. But as regards Professional Art Education in Art Institutions it has to be planned so as to serve a threefold purpose:
Firstly, it should provide adequate scope for the highly talented, who would “Carry the torch of Joyous Idealism lit by their teacher luster undimmed”. This class of artists are those who would go beyond the utilitarian points of view of Art and create out of their pure imagination. Such artists should be given full scope to develop their creative capacities, although their creations may not apparently be of much utility, but would add to the rich cultural heritage of the society. It is a fact that Fine Arts are difficult to learn and more so to master. A fairly long period of devoted study is necessary and there are no short-cuts to cut success in this line. It is hard work and devotion sustained over days, months and years that can make one an artist. The poet, late Dr. Tagore had rightly observed that like all other Arts “Painting is a jealous mistress. She would either have you whole or none of you at all”. This observation applies to all branches of Fine Arts Education. A specialised form of Art Education has to be introduced in the frame work of the Professional Art Education. Mere education of Art as Trades Course would not fulfil this objective.
The Second objective for Professional Education in Art would be to create facilities for education and training a class of artists who would be responsible for the development of aesthetic sense of the poep1e through the medium of utilitarian Art. To this class belong the Industrial Designers, Advertising and Commercial Artists and Artist craftsmen. The object of Professional Art Education should be to create the urge for the creation of works of art which could be made use of in every day life; and help to promote art appreciation amongst the public.
The third important object of Professional Art Education which should not be lost sight of is the development of art appreciation in the public at large. The people in general could be so trained as to discriminate creations intrinsically good from the artistic point of view, from those which are apparently beautiful, through the medium of Professional Education of Art Teachers, Professors and by organising Exhibitions, establishing Art Galleries and National Museums.
With the disappearance of Royal patronage for fine arts—I am speaking of painting and sculpture only—people devoted to this art have to seek livelihood for themselves through brush and chisel. The situation may be brighter in the case of Commercial artists, Industrial and Advertising Art designers. But is is definitely the reverse in the case of an artist who belongs to the category of one who has fully devoted his life to the advancement of Art for its own sake. Many a time a genius in painting or sculpture has to throw aside his brush or chisel in search of a way out of his and his family’s penury. In some cases this leads to frustration and dejection in the minds of such artists which, doubtless, may be considered as a national loss. It is, therefore, essential that the State comes into the rescue of such creative people, once the merit is recognised. I would very much wish that alongwith various other issues this Seminar would consider this aspect of the problem.
Critical appreciation of one’s work results in realising the deficiencies therein and leads to rectification in the succeeding works in an effort to achieve what may be called perfection. Criticism must be born of a thorough knowledge of the subject either by actual practical experience or by intensive and extensive study. The criticism by pseudo-critics is dangerous and extremely harmful to the proper development of fine arts. Such criticisms may be destructive to an artist of promise inasmuch as it kills his imagination and damps his enthusiasm for further creative work. An artist sometimes is misled too. This is a real danger that is raising its uncouth head these days and this point also should be considered.
Considering the objectives of the Professional Education and the shortcomings of the present day system of education, it is imperative that a new pattern of Art Education has to be chalked out bearing in mind the co-ordination of the different agencies responsible for this type of Education; and to see that steps are taken to achieve a perfect pattern of Art Education.
I earnestly hope that this Seminar would consider the above few points along with the other issues.