wiki:Art Schools

Art Schools

The terms ‘art school’ or ‘academic’ aesthetic style in the visual arts refer to a series of art schools started in the mid-19th C. in Presidency cities, usually by Indian industrialists or entrepreneurs with support from the British government: the Calcutta School of Art (Est: 1854), the School of Industrial Arts in Madras (Est: 1854), the Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay (Est: 1857) and the Mayo School of Arts in Lahore (Est: 1878).

Set up to provide industrial craft training (e.g. weaving, metal and wood carving, gem cutting), they became fine arts institutions modelled on the Royal Academy to train artists in ‘the whole paraphernalia of European art academies: the drawing-room copies, casts from “the antique”, Gothic mouldings etc. [while] at the same time it has been held as totally unnecessary, if not demoralising, for them to study the principles and methods of Indian painting and sculpture’ (E.B. Havell, Principal in early 20th C. of the Government School of Art, Calcutta, 1901).

A valuable account of the art schools is given by T. Guha-Thakurta (1992), who points out that by the end of the 19th C. the art schools had managed to establish the idea that art could be a respectable vocation, in terms of the status of ‘high art’, as well as a career in terms of the middle-class employment opportunities offered by an ‘applied arts’ approach: ‘Art, indicating painting and sculpture, and the “applied arts”, indicating technical skills of draughtsmanship, engraving, etching or lithography, were not considered two separate spheres, but two essential aspects of the same profession.’ Extending the naturalist and neo-classical modes of British painting in India, the new academicism of the art schools, legitimated by e.g. portrait commissions from the British and Indian ruling classes, also fed into the diversified conventions of the Company School as Indian artists formerly under feudal patronage started selling their wares in urban market-places. The academic style, both in genre and manner, had a function analogous to that of operatic style in the Parsee Theatre: it created a new hierarchy of taste in competition with classicist brahminical aspirations while maintaining an opposition to native popular arts which sought to assimilate industrial technology differently (cf. Pat Painting? and Raja Ravi Varma for alternative solutions).

However, as Indian artists often found it difficult to incorporate the rules of monocular perspective, the art schools invented their own   Chintamani; 1939: Sant Sakkubai. variations, reformulating the demand for verisimilitude in the painted or photographed image in terms of a naive formalism, thereby creating a peculiar genre popular with the potentially democratic and culturally eclectic urban middle classes. This institutionalised aesthetic became a conduit for theatrical and cinematic naturalism, displaced though it was into various devices that substituted for illusionistic skills. These developments prefigure the painted stage backdrops? and set design, e.g. in the work of artists and art directors such as M.R. Achrekar (in Raj Kapoor films) or Kanu Desai (in Vijay Bhatt and Shantaram? costume dramas). Bansi Chandragupta’s work for S. Ray? is also relevant in this context, although other considerations come into play in his case as well. Later, the art school aesthetic influenced the posture of actors as they formed a frontal master-shot tableau within which the film-maker would insert close-ups or over-the-shoulder shots.


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    Last modified 6 years ago Last modified on Mar 14, 2013, 2:43:13 PM