It is a proud privilege and an occasion of great personal gratification to be able to welcome you to this Seminar on Art Education. I do so most sincerely not only on my own behalf but also on behalf of the Lalit Kala Akadami, whose Chairman had intended to be here with us but has unfortunately been prevented from coming by a serious accident to his wife. He, has, therefore, asked me to convey his apologies to you, to extend a most cordial welcome to you and to offer his best wishes to you in the task before you.
Having performed this duty of a messenger, I should have liked to sit down and not trespass further on your limited and very valuable time. My colleagues of the Steering Committee have not, however, permitted this and have instructed me to explain the purpose and scope of the Seminar. I must, therefore, bow to them. I do not, however, propose to carry water to the Ganga but shall merely, with your permission, explain the background of the Seminar. If what I have to say smacks of the autobiographical, I crave your pardon.
For some time past I had been feeling that, though Art Education in the country was making some progress, much of the activity was perhaps haphazard and not planned or even properly thought out. My thoughts on the subject were rather general and vague. It appeared to me that not much attention was being paid to education in arts and crafts in the curriculum of our schools. A great deal more seemed to be necessary to invigorate Art Education so as to provide adequate facilities for students to develop their artistic or aesthetic sense and to afford them greater opportunities to take up specialised courses in arts and crafts, if they had the necessary aptitude.
I felt, therefore, that Art should be harnessed to a much greater extent than is the case now to make products of Basic Schools satisfy aesthetic ends and also to train the children’s aesthetic sense, to instil in them the sense of the beautiful, to develop their powers of creative artistic expression and to give them an emotionally balanced personality. It seemed to me, therefore, that arts and crafts should be an integral part of the curriculum of the junior classes and, in the last two years or so of the Senior Basic or Middle School, facilities should be provided for those who show distinct promise. Similarly, students in High Schools should be enabled to take up one of the arts or crafts as a separate subject. At the University there should be a more advanced academic course of history and criticism, which can develop a wider appreciation of art and also lead to most specialised study and research.
With regard to professional education, there appeared to be room for more Art Schools and for a reorganisation of the existing schools. Various ancillary steps also seemed to be called for. For instance, we can do with many more exhibitions of students’ work at the School, State and all-India levels. Let me, however, make it very clear that I am not referring to exhibitions of children’s Art which seem to have become a fashion and which seem to me to be doing more harm than good, insofar as they encourage a tendency to exhibitionism and a professional spirit among the immature. I am referring here to the need for bonafide and properly organised exhibitions of the works of students of professional Schools of Art. They should be so organised as to provide encouragement and instruction to the students and also aesthetic education for the others. There should also be adequate provision of financial assistance for promising young artists to serve as apprentices under acknowledged masters and to enable them to visit prominent Art centres and galleries and other significant places within the country and outside. The Government of India have already started a scheme of scholarships for young artists of outstanding promise, and I am sure they will welcome the advice of competent persons like you as to how to make that scheme more effective and fruitful.
There is perhaps some risk of a teacher, particularly if he is himself a good artist, of impressing his style too deeply on his pupils, specially those at an im pressionable age. For this and other reasons, it will be of advantage if there can be an exchange of teachers, at least for short periods, between the different Art Schools. It will also be of value if eminent artists are invited by the Art Schools to deliver lectures and demonstrate their technique. In this connection, it also occurred to me whether it would not be advisable to establish a Central Institute of Art for giving more advanced instruction to those who pass out of Art Schools with a high standard of attainment and promise. An obvious difficulty is that it may not be possible to gather together, at least for some time to come, a sufficient number of top artists and art teachers of the necessary calibre in one institution. This difficulty is however, perhaps not decisive. While it may not be possible to have a permanent staff of enough top men, it should not be impossible to arrange that all or most of the top men, spend at least some timo at the Institute as guest teachers. In any case, it will be of no little advantage to bring together some of the most promising graduates of Art Schools and to let them live together, exchangng ideas, discussing and learning different techniques and seeking guidance from a competent all-India teaching staff and inspiration from visiting eminent artists.
Lastly, the supply of Art teachers appears to be inadequate in number as well as in quality. The present position is that almost any artist is pressed into service as a teacher, but an artist, howsoever good, does not necessarily make a good Art teacher. There is need, therefore, for carefully thought out arrangements for training Art teachers and for providing refresher courses for those already in the profession.
These were my rather vague and random thoughts which I ventured to place before the Lalit Kala Akadami, with the suggestion that it may appoint a committee of experts or organise a seminar of specialists to consider the question of Art Education in all its aspects and suggest definite and concrete steps to be taken by those concerned. If you are surprised by the boldness of an ignorant layman in so addressing the National Academy of Art on such an important and specia lised subject, I can only remind you that it is sometimes fortunate that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. At least so I should like to think.
The Lalit Kala Akadami, in any case, overlooked the lack of qualifications of the person making the suggestion and decided to accept the suggestion to organise this Seminar on Art Education. Perhaps I should add, in defence of the Akadami, that I had fortunately acquired distinguished company, for within two months of my suggestion it also received a proposal from Dr. Mulk Raj Anand for the creation of Chairs of History of Indian Art at some Universities. In any case the project of a Seminar was accepted and its execution entrusted to a Steering Committee consisting of Dr. Mulk Raj Anand, Dr. Kalidas Nag, Mr. B. Sen, and Mr. B. Sanyal, who is unfortunately unable to be with us now, and myself.
The Steering Committee decided to depart from the prevalent practice of organising conferences, etc. as spectacular shows, with distinguished persons to inaugurate and close the performances to the tune of fanfare and trumpets and so on. The Committee felt that, as the subject for discussion was one of some practical importance, the approach should also be practical. It was decided that the Seminar should be a businesslike meeting, more of the character of a workshop, without unnecessary show and publicity to hinder serious thought. The fanfare and trumpets will sound much sweeter if they are evoked by the report of our proceedings. If the Seminar, as I hope and pray, succeeds in thinking out and offering to the country a clear picture of what Art Education should be and some constructive and definite suggestions as to how to achieve it, there will be no dearth of garlands and boquets and they will then have a far more agreeable odour.
We felt, however, that it would perhaps be both pleasant and profitable if we could start the Seminar by listening to the views of some really distinguished educationists and thinkers on the subject of Art Education, and we accordingly invited Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Zakir Husain and Dr. C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, besides Mr. D. P. Roy Chowdhury, the Chairman of the Akadami, to address us. Unfortunately our desire for simplicity and businesslike proceedings has been fulfilled with a vengeance. I am reminded of a couplet of Ghalib’s:
Khush hotay hain, par vast men yun mar nahin jatay
Aai shab-e-hijran ki tamanna meray agay.
Dr. Radhakrishnan was the first to drop out. Next we heard that Dr. Zakir Husain had had a heart attack and was confined to bed. Then came the news of the accident to Mr. D. P. Roy Chowdhury’s wife, and lastly we heard from Dr. Ramaswamy Aiyar a few days ago that he too was unable to attend. I can, in the circumstances only apologise to you for inflicting on you this dreary recital of mine in place of the rich intellectual fare which the Steering Committee had planned to offer you. It is, however, perhaps not an unmixed misfortune for, as a colleague in the Steering Committee observed, we can now get down to business straight away in a businesslike frame of mind. In any case I am sure you will share my regret at the circumstances which prevented Mr. Roy ChowdhUry and Dr. Zakir Husain from being with us today and will also join me in wishing Dr. Zakir Husain and Mrs. Roy Chowdhury a speedy recovery. I should also perhaps mention that Dr. Zakir Husain had been preparing his talk to us and wished to come in spite of his illness, but his doctors strictly forbade any movement.
Let me now turn to the business before us. As I explained in my letter of invitation to you, the Steering Committee, after very careful thought, divided the subject into two parts, Place of Art in General Education and Professional Education in Art, the first part being subdivided into six topics and the second into four. I did not, however, unfortunately explain sufficiently clearly the nature and purpose of the papers which were to be written on the different topics. It was not intended that they should be scholarly theses or even full statements of the views of the writers. The intention was that they should be in the nature of working papers, setting forth clearly and concisely the present position, the problems to be faced and possible steps for dealing with those problems. In other words, I should have explained that the papers should be not so much instructive as informative, expository and stimulating. In any case, in order to save time, these papers are not to be read; that is why they were circulated in advance and you were all requested to intimate beforehand in what discussions you wished particularly to participate. The procedure I am suggesting for your consideration is this. The paper or papers which have been circulated will be taken as read and you may be invited to raise any question or seek any clarification that may arise from those papers. At this stage there will be only brief questions, no speeches. Those who have expressed a desire to participate in the discussion may then be asked to speak. and they will be requested not to exceed, in any circumstance. the time limit to br fixed by the Chairman of the meeting at the very beginning, taking into account the number of speakers, the writers of the papers being the last speakers. The entire discussion should end I5 minutes before the close of the session, to allow the trend of discussion and conclusions to be summarised. The record of the discussion will be prepared by a Rapporteur appointed for each separate topic of discussion, and I have placed before you the names of those who, the Steering Committee requests, should act as Rapporteurs. I hope they will all agree.
I am afraid it will be physically impossible for me to conduct the discussion on every topic and I am therefore requesting some colleagues to share this task with me and preside at different sessions. Their names also you will find in the revised programme placed before you.
As you will observe from the revised programme, the discussion on separate topics will come to an end on the afternoon of February 23rd. On the 24th the Rapporteurs will meet in a Committee and their report, containing the general trends of discussion and the conclusions and recommendations of the Seminar, will be circulated the same day. This report will be considered by the Seminar at its concluding session on February 25th. The whole day will be available for discussion but if, as I have no doubt, the Rapporteurs do their job well we should be able to finalise our report during the morning of February 25th.
One last word. One gentleman whom we invited to participate wrote back that he saw no point in taking part in such a discussion unless Government—apparently he does not consider anyone else concerned with Art Education—agree beforehand to implement all the recommendations of the Seminar. That, if I may be forgiven for saying so, betrays a most unconstructive attitude; it is also both overbearing and unduly timid. I am sure you will agree that it is your privilege and duty, since you are the most competent to advise on this subject, to offer such advice as you can to the country, including the various Governments, Art Schools and other authorities concerned, for the improvement of Art Education. Whether those authorities carry out their duty or not is not your responsibility and need not affect the fulfilment of your own duty to the country. In order, however, that your advice should be of real value, it is essential that your discussion should be definite and precise; since you are all most well informed you do not need any general address on Art Education and no expansive explanations are called for. It is also necessary that your conclusions and recommendations should be definite and concrete—I repeat definite and concrete. Lastly, to be really constructive, they must be realistic; they must keep in view our available resources. I refer not only to financial resources but much more so to available personnel. While, therefore, you should certainly recommend what is ultimately desirable, you should also indicate what is immediately feasible.