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Though it is true that art-institutes are necessary to impart art-training to the maximum number, some of the greatest artists of all times like Picasso and Van Gogh had almost no institutional training at all. FN Souza had joined JJ School of Art for learning the basics of art but soon found the atmosphere so stifling that he had to abandon his training mid-way to chart an independent course.

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore's work was uninfluenced by any art-school tradition.

Institutes often stifle independence of thinking and help more in creation of stereotypes. Some of the greatest artists credited with the beginning of new genres of art are thus found to be without any institutional-training. These include among others Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Shergil, Ramkinkar Baij, Prokash Karmakar, BR Panesar, Devajyoti Ray and Shakila .

Mother and child by Ramkinkar Baij Ramkinkar Baij learnt art form his surroundings. He was so poor that he could not afford to go to any art-institute

However the tallest among these names is that of MF Hussain, who learnt art from his long association with hoarding-making. Lack of institutional training forces such artists to learn art from myriad sources, thereby possibly ensuring variety and more free thinking.

Colourful work of Prakash Karmakar

Paseudorealism : Devajyoti Ray's new style

Prokash Karmakar and Devajyoti Ray are among the present generation artists who have been credited with creation of styles beyond the confines of art-school training.




There was no traditional art-training institute in India till the coming of the British. The British art-schools opened in Calcutta in the early 19th century were concerned about imparting training in only two basic media- oil and water colour. The idea was to raise a class of Indian artists who could paint scenes from India in realistic tradition for the purpose of record keeping. But the need for an art institute which would teach Indian artists techniques of art beyond the confines of British traditionalism was long felt and to some extent this was fulfilled by the establishment of the Indian Society of Oriental Art in 1907.

The artists of this society led by Abanindranath Tagore worked closely, exchanging views and organizing annual exhibitions where important members of the British and Bengali elites were invited. Many a times the show used to be inaugurated by the Governor himself. Young artists were encouraged to submit works outside the confines of the Company School style.

Abanindranath Tagore

Jamini Roy

In the meanwhile, at Tagore’s Santiniketan, a new school for art, by the name of Kalabhavan was established with Nandalal Bose as its head. Kalabhavan produced many of the greatest artists of Bengal including Benode Bihari, Jamini Roy, etc. Kalabhavan also held the distinction of being the first co-education institute where women artists from abroad were invited to train Indian women students.

Some of the better known names of Kalabhavan like KG Subhramaniyan and Shanko Choudhuri had later left for Baroda, where they helped the establishment of art school at the Maharaja's institute.

But Kalabhavan lost its importance to a certain extent later with the rise of a formal Art college in the heart of Calcutta with the aid of the Government. This was the Government College of Art and Craft. The college trained art in a more strict environment and retained its strictness upto the present day. Till date this remains the most important institute of art learning producing some the best of contemporary art-world like Ganesh Paine, Bikash Bhattacharya, Sunil Das and in the post liberalization phase Paresh Maity and Chittrobhanu Majumdar. 

Sunil Das


Parallel to these established colleges, there are other institutes which have helped from time to time the art-students. Shuvaprasanna had established the Visual Arts College for students of rural areas to practice traditional art forms. BR Panesar had established a school for imparting training in collage-making. Many contemporary artists like Manik Talukdar, Shovan Som, run their own schools. In the post-independence phase Calcutta may have lost its premium position as a centre of art, yet it remains the best city for learning activities even to this day.   





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