Adivasis’ profound influence on modern Indian art: “The Triumph of Modernism” by Partha Mitter

Primitivism in modern Indian art drew on adibasis. […] At Santiniketan, art was to be an integral part of an all-rounded education; Tagore had long considered Abanindranath’s pupil Nandalal [Bose] the best person to give this shape.

The triumph of modernism: India’s artists and the avant-garde, 1922-1947 by Partha Mitter (New Delhi, Oxford Unitversity Press, 2007), p. 79

“Rural communities certainly need education, but their life is interwoven with many social and cultural issues that must all be taken into account. UNESCO is right to argue that an integrated approach with a holistic view is appropriate.” – Dr. Boro Baski >>

[W.G.] Archer’s primitivist longing found the ‘power’, absent in Gaganendranath’s painting, in abundance in India’s tribal sculptures. In The Vertical Man, he expressed admiration for the ‘masculine’ vigour and abstract geometry of Indian tribal art, as he did for the ‘peasant art’ of medieval Britain. Primitivism had bestowed on modernist art criticism the notion of virility as standing for bold simplicity, as opposed to the weakness of complicated ‘feminine’ anecdotal painting. – The Triumph of Modernism, p. 26

It was primitivism that would dominate the decades of the 1920s and ’30s. – The Triumph of Modernism, p. 27

Bengali literature celebrated the natural, healthy Santal way of living, the black lissome [graceful] Santal women providing a counterpoint to the pale cloistered ladies of urban Calcutta. – The Triumph of Modernism, p. 29, Chapter TWO: The Indian discourse of Primitivism

Source: Partha Mitter. The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-garde, 1922–1947. ISBN 9780195693362. Hardback edition: November 2007

‘With this book Partha Mitter adds further to his already monumental contribution to the study of Indian art. […] By undertaking to describe and analyze its complexities, this book earns its place in the corpus of distinguished critical literature that warns us against an overtly Eurocentric view of modernity, an alarm already sounded in the author’s celebrated work, Much Maligned Monsters (1977). Furthermore, it alerts all concerned to the indifference that allows South Asian historiography to remain blissfully unaware of what it can and must learn from contemporary writings on the history of art. There is a great deal here for all narratives of colonialism and modernism to feed on.’ —RANAJIT GUHA, founder of Subaltern Studies

Source: OUP : General and Reference – The Triumph of Modernism
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“If Tagore had done nothing else, what he did at Santiniketan and Sriniketan would be sufficient to rank him as one of India’s greatest nation-builders.” – Krishna Kripalani in Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography >>

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