Contribution of Japanese artists in the development of Neo-Bengal School

In 1901-02, Josephine MacLeod, an American pupil of Swami Vivekananda had invited Japanese arts stalwart Kakuzo Okakura to India. Kakuzo Okakura wished to invite Swami Vivekananda, who by that time had become world famous, to Japan. However, Swami Vivekakanda passed away in 1902 itself. Kakuzo Okakura came in touch with the Tagores during his stay in India. This was the beginning of India’s cultural relations with Modern Japan. This meeting had a lasting impact on Indian art.

Contribution of Japanese artists

After Kakuzo Okakura went back to Japan, he sent two Japanese artists, Yokoyama Taikan and Hishida Shunso to India. These two artists taught the techniques of Japanese brush-n-ink works and watercolour wash to Abanindranath and his elder brother Gaganendranath Tagore. They learnt the technique and were free for innovating and modifying it to better suit their own needs.

The technique was so much liked, appreciated and promoted by Abanindranath Tagore that most of his students, who were later known as the artists of the Neo-Bengal school of paintings, followed this practice.

Contribution of Kokka Magazine

During the first decade of the 20th century, the Indian Society of Oriental Art brought out the exquisite color reproductions of original paintings by Abanindranath Tagore, Surendranath Ganguly, Nandalal Bose and other old masters of Mughal and Rajput art. The ISOA was helped by the expert technicians of the Japanese Art periodical Kokka and the Japanese woodblock printing method was used as a technique. Kokka, which literally means “National Essence” was an influential art magazine of East Asia and Japan.

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