Flowers, Trees, and the Environs of Santiniketan

1. Invitation Card, undated

2. Painted Village, Santiniketan, 1921

3. Three Figures (Asit Kumar Haldar, Nandalal Bose, Surendranath Kar), Santiniketan, undated

What can this small scattering of postcards in this section tell us about the artistic ambience and art practices at Santiniketan during these years (1920s -1940s) that we do not know already? Some small slivers of information about Nandalal’s instructions for art practices, and about painting and other cultural activities at Santiniketan can be sliced out occasionally from these postcard texts.

However, to turn to Santiniketan as the one-of-a-kind environment from which Nandalal painted and penned many of these notes is not just to search for new clues on the emerging art world there. It is also to freshly appreciate the deep embrace of the natural world that became a defining mark of the art of Nandalal and of Kala Bhavan, the art school that Nandalal as Mastermoshai founded and shaped over this period. The Santiniketan that we encounter here have the flowers of the season embedded with the printed place name on the odd postcard. It is the place that made outdoor sketching a part and parcel of teaching practice at Kala Bhavan; that developed field tours to different archaeological and art historical sites across India as a special feature of the training of its artists and art students; and which brought back copies of the mural paintings of Ajanta and Bagh to embellish the institutional walls at Kala Bhavan.

These postcards also help locate Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar as part of a large off-site fraternity of artists and cohorts that Santiniketan nurtured. A sense of this inner community beautifully marks out a stand-alone small black and white painting, done like a linocut, said to have been conceived by Asit Haldar and painted by Nandalal, which is meant to jovially represent Mastermoshai himself with Asit Haldar as a willowy figure on his left and Suren Kar on his right as a small Krishna playing the flute.