The Conflict of Tradition and Change in the Work and Public Image of the Bengali Artist Abanindranath Tagore: A Study of the Dialog between Traditionalism and Modernity

Aall, Ingrid

     This dissertation examines the life and work of the Bengali artists Abanindranath Tagore. It seeks to combine the two fields of art history and cultural history . . . . In addition, attention has been given to appraise Abanindranath's art in the context of India's own esthetic and cultural value systems and, at the same time, in reference to the universality of art. The time has come to change the popular image of Abanindranath Tagore as only a revivalist of artistic traditions and recognize him for his position as the progenitor of the modern Indian artist. In order to test this claim, the method has been to use his paintings as documentation. Throughout the study, illustrations of his paintings [are] analyzed in reference to their dual relationship within the setting of traditionalism and modernity.
     A parallel theme in this investigation [is] . . . the interdependence between art and society . . . . On the one hand, Abanindranath's art [is] examined from the point of view of the effects of socio-cultural conditioning of his time and place. Simultaneously, art [is] used as an index to registering and differentiating less understood yet innate aspects that have often been ignored by the student of socio-cultural dynamics.
     While the focus [is] . . . on Abanindranath as an artist, use [is] made of his talents as a writer to better understand his artistic personality. Similarly, his function as an educator [is] integrated into this study, particularly, since his establishment of the New Bengali School of Painting was of great importance. . . . In this study equal emphasis [is] given to content and form in Abanindranath's early works (1894-1920), created in the style of 'popular traditionalism,' or in other words, in the style of the 'New Bengali School of Painting,' and to his unknown modernistic works of the post-Revivalistic period (1920-1951), which have not been discussed elsewhere.