Abani Thakur, the father of modern Indian art

Abanindranath Tagore or Abani Thakur (1871-1951) personifies this new national consciousness born in the field of art.

June 25, 2022, 1:55 PM IST

Indian nationalism draws its strength from diversity and pluralism. India’s resistance movement against colonialism was created by the new self-awareness that arose in all walks of life. The new revival was visible in politics, literature and the arts. Abanindranath Tagore or Abani Thakur (1871-1951) personifies this new national consciousness born in the field of art.

Member of the illustrious Tagore family which left its indelible mark in politics, education, literature and the arts. Nephew of the great Ravindranath Tagore. Abani is considered the father of modern Indian art. He was the first proponent of Swadeshi values ​​in art. The founder of the legendary Bengal school of art replaced the dominance of the European style of art that ruled the Indian art world with the advent of colonialism.

Abani led the rediscovery of India’s great artistic traditions like Mughal and Rajput miniature art. He redefined and revived them and drew inspiration from Indian epics and the rock art of Ajanta.

Abani was born in 1871 in the ancestral Tagore village of Jorashanko. He learned the art from the European teachers of the Calcutta Arts School. But after discovering Mughal miniatures, he started drawing in this style. He illustrated the writings of Ravindranath Tagore. Abani’s pursuit of the Indian tradition was strengthened with the arrival of British art teacher EB Havel as headmaster of the Government Art School.

Great admirers of Indian traditions, Havel and Abani and his artist brother Gajendranath Tagore redefined the teaching and techniques of art based on Indian traditions. They formed the Indian Society of Oriental Art, also known as the Bengal School of Art. Great artists like Nandalal Bose and Jamini Roy were their disciples.

Abani took the initiative to rediscover an Asian artistic tradition by bringing Japanese and Chinese arts into his repertoire. The school attempted to claim and glorify an Indian tradition based on spirituality against the supposedly materialistic concepts of Western art.

The Bengal school also has a share of critics. Instead of being genuinely Indian, the school is accused of engendering an Orientalist concept as imagined by the West about India.

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