Down memory lane

At a recently concluded symposium, organised by the Government College of Fine Arts and the South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, the focus was on the early days of the college. A report.

AT A three-day symposium titled "the Spirit of Madras School of Art" organised recently by the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, and the South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, the focus was on the early days of the college. The Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, earlier known as the Madras School of Art, established in 1850, was the first to be started in the country. Since then, it has been re-christened a few times as the Industrial Institute, School of Arts and Crafts and College of Arts and Crafts. Today, it is known as the College of Fine Arts.

Art critic and poet Indran traced the `Cultural backdrop of Madras movement of Art', from the times when the arts were patronised by kings in Tamil Nadu to the point when the Madras School was established. Linearism is believed to be the main contribution of the artists trained there. Indran felt that this characteristic was perhaps a continuum of the prehistoric cave paintings of Tamil Nadu. As veteran artist Santhana Raj said during his lec-dem, "Line is universal and no one can claim special ownership to it" and no one can draw or paint without it.

Ashrafi Bhagat, art critic, dealt with the history of the college in her paper, `The Establishment of Madras School of Art and further developments'. She pointed out how the School concentrated only on traditional indigenous crafts till Debiprasad Roy Choudhury took over as the principal in 1929. She mentioned that the British administration wanted to use traditional craftsmen to manufacture items for the use of their own officers as well as for commercial purposes. It was Roy Choudhury who stood firm and introduced training in fine arts and after him, it was K.C.S. Paniker who created an opportunity for artists to show their creations in north India. After him, there were some eminent artists who headed the institution.

N. Alamelu spoke in detail on `D.P.Roy Choudhury and plastic arts'. Roy Choudhury was a multifaceted personality. Born in an aristocratic family, he was a painter, sculptor, musician, writer, wrestler and administrator. Slides of his paintings and some of the monumental sculptures made by him, such as the Triumph of Labour and the one of Mahatma Gandhi at the Marina Beach in Chennai and the Martyrs of Freedom in Delhi were shown. Sadanand Menon made his session interactive, by asking the audience to spell out what the School of Art meant for them.

After a brief introduction senior artist and former principal of the College Alphonso Arul Doss showed some interesting slides on the creations of the School. Some engravings of the British Royalty, a statue of the prince of Travancore by Roy Choudhury, sculptures and paintings by veterans such as Paniker, Dhanapal, Santhana Raj, Munuswamy and younger artists of recent times were featured in his presentation.

Former principal and artist Santhana Raj, conducted a demonstration with a pastel drawing. He said the line was like a parent and without line, there could be no art.


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