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Full text of "Hindu art: its humanism and modernism; an introductory essay"

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SARKAR 

Hindu Art 



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HINDU ART 



HINDU ART: 

ITS HUMANISM AND MODERNISM 

An introductory essay 

by i. 

Benoy Kumar Sarkar 

Professor, National Council of Education, Bengal. 

Author of Love in Hindu Literature, The Bliss 

of a Moment, Chinese Religion Through 

Hindu Eyes, Hindu Achievements 

in Exact Science, etc. 




New York, B. W. HUEBSCH, Inc., Mcmxx 



COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY B. W. HUEBSCH, INC. 
PRINTED IN U. S. A. 



PREFACE 

"The Giottos of Hindu art," I wrote 
in an article on "Oriental Culture in 
Modern Pedagogics" in School and 
Society (April 14, 1917) , "would be 
well known 'great masters' to the stu- 
dents of early Renaissance painting, 
and the post-impressionists and futur- 
ists of Eur- America would be found to 
have as their comrades in new ventures 
and experiments the Hindu painters of 
the modern nationalist school." 

Such was the message also of my talks 
at the Pen and Brush Club, Columbia 
University, the Civic Club, and other 
institutions in the United States, the 
outcome of which is this little book. 
Parts of it have appeared in the Jour- 
nal of Race Development, and in the 
Modern Review (Calcutta). 



CONTENTS 



SECTION PACE 

I Art-Criticism in Shakoontala . . 9 



II Comparative Art-History . 

III Humanism in Hindu Art . 

IV Hindu Technique in Post-Impres 

sionism 



16 

28 

35 



HINDU ART 

ITS HUMANISM AND MOD- 
ERNISM 

SECTION I 

ART-CRITICISM IN SHAKOONTALA 

In Kalidasa's play, Shakoontala (fifth 
century A. C), we have among the 
dramatis personae Anasuya, a dam- 
sel of the hermitage, who is skilled in 
painting. Besides, a considerable por- 
tion of Act VI, Sc. ii is a study in art 
criticism. It introduces us to some of 
the themes of the Hindu painters, their 
methods of execution, and the aesthetic 
taste of the spectators. 

King Doosyanta has through inad- 
vertence dismissed his wife Shakoon- 

9 



HINDU ART 



tala from the palace. He soon per- 
ceives his mistake and becomes love- 
sick. A picture of Shakoontala is then 
painted. The king hopes to derive 
some relief from this likeness. 

"(Enter a maid with a tablet.) 
Maid. Your Majesty, here is the picture 
of our lady. 

(She produces the tablet.) 
King (gazing at it). It is a beautiful 
picture. See! 
A graceful arch of brows above great 

eyes; 
Lips bathed in darting, smiling light 

that flies 
Reflected from white teeth; a mouth as 

red 
As red karkandhu-fruit; love's bright- 
ness shed 
O'er all her face in bursts of liquid 

charm — 
The picture speaks, with living beauty 
warm. 
Clown (looking at it). The sketch is 

10 



HINDU ART 



full of sweet meaning. My eyes seem 

to stumble over its uneven surface. 

What more can I say? I expect to see 

it come to life, and I feel like speaking 

to it. 
Mishrakeshi. The king is a clever 

painter. I seem to see the dear girl 

before me. 
King. My friend, 

What in the picture is not fair, 

Is badly done; 

Yet something of her beauty there, 

I feel, is won. 

• •»••• 

{Sighing.) 
I treated her with scorn and loathing 

ever; 
Now o'er her pictured charms my heart 

will burst. 

Clown. There are three figures in the 
picture, and they are all beautiful. 
Which one is the lady Shakoontala? 

King. Which one do you think? 
Clown (observing closely). I think it 

ii 



HINDU ART 



is this one, leaning against the creeper 
which she has just sprinkled. Her face 
is hot and the flowers are dropping from 
her hair; for the ribbon is loosened. 
Her arms droop like weary branches; 
she has loosened her girdle, and she 
seems a little fatigued. This, I think, 
is the lady Shakoontala; the others are 
her friends. 

King. You are good at guessing. Be- 
sides, here are proofs of my love. 
See where discolorations faint 
Of loving handling tell; 
And here the swelling of the paint 
Shows where my sad tears fell. 

Chatoorika. I have not finished the 
background. Go, get the brushes. 
...♦•• 

Clown. What are you going to add? 

Mishrakeshi. Surely, every spot that 
the dear girl loved. 

King. Listen, my fiiend. 

The stream of Malini, and on its sands 
The swan-pairs resting; holy foot-hill 
lands 

12 



HINDU ART 



Of great Himalaya's sacred ranges, 

where 
The yaks are seen; and under trees that 

bear 
Bark hermit-dresses on their branches 

high, 
A doe that on the buck's horn rubs her 

eye. 

And another ornament that Shakoontala 
loved I have forgotten to paint. 

• ••••• 

The siris-blossom, fastened o'er her ear, 

Whose stamens brush her cheek; 

The lotus-chain like autumn moonlight 

soft 
Upon her bosom meek. 
Clown. But why does she cover her face 
with fingers lovely as the pink water- 
lily? She seems frightened. {He 
looks more closely.) I see. Here is 
a bold, bad bee. He steals honey, and 
so he flies to her lotus-face. 

• ••••• 

King. Sting that dear lip, O bee, with 
cruel power, 

13 



HINDU ART 



And you shall be imprisoned in a flower. 
Clown. Well, he doesn't seem afraid of 

your dreadful punishment. . . . 
King. Will he not go, though I warn 

him? 



Clown {aloud). It is only a picture, 
man." 

(Ryder's version.) 

There is no touch of pessimism, 
idealism, or subjectivism in all these re- 
marks and suggestions. A modern 
lover examining the photo or oil paint- 
ing of his darling could not be more 
realistic. 

Does this conversation open up to us 

a society of ascetics or yogins waiting 
for Divine illumination to evolve 
shilpa (art) out of the neo-Platonic 
meditation or the Hindu dhyana? Or 
does it make the India of the fifth cen- 
tury a cognate of the modern world in 



HINDU ART 



its matter-of-fact sober grasp of the 
realities of flesh and blood? 

It is really a specimen of Hindu pos- 
itivism that Kalidasa, the Shakespeare 
of Hindu literature, has furnished in 
this bit of discussion in pictorial art. 
We feel how profound humanists the 
Hindu audiences were in their outlook, 
how non-mystical in their views and 
criticisms in regard to chitra-lakshana 
(i. e.j "marks" of a painting). 



i* 



SECTION II 

COMPARATIVE ART-HISTORY 

AND yet European and American 
scholars as well as their Asian para- 
phrasers have tried to discover and 
demonstrate an Oriental pessimism in 
the arts and crafts of the Hindus. It is 
generally held that the inspiration of 
Hindu painters and sculptors is totally 
different from that of the Westerns. 
The images and pictures executed by 
the artists of India are believed to have 
been the products of Yoga, of an ultra- 
meditative consciousness. They are 
said to reveal a much too subjective or 
idealistic temperament. Further, they 
are all alleged to be religious or mytho- 
logical in theme. 

16 



HINDU ART 



Comparative art-history would indi- 
cate, however, that Hindu plastic art 
or drawing has not been the handmaid 
of theology to a far greater extent than 
the classical and medieval works of 
Europe. Is it not Greek mythology 
that we see embodied in the sculptures 
of Phidias? Similarly are not the 
Catholic and Russian paintings mere 
aids to the popularization of the Bible 
stories? Indeed, art has long been 
more or less "illustrative" of history, 
legends, traditions, and myths both in 
the East and the West. 

We do not know much of the Greek 
paintings. But we know the legends 
in the drawings on the Greek vases of 
the fifth century B. C. In one the ser- 
pent is being strangled by Heracles, al- 
most as if the hydra Kaliya is being 
quelled by Krishna; in another Theseus 

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HINDU ART 



is fighting the Amazons ; and in a third 
Gorgon is pursuing Perseus or Kadmos 
killing the dragon. What else are the 
themes of the medieval Purana-paint- 
ers? And Hindus whose infancy is 
nurtured on the stories and paintings of 
the Ramayana will easily remember fa- 
miliar scenes in the colored terra cot- 
tas of Hellas which portray, for in- 
stance, a Paris in the act of leading 
away Helen, or the parting of Hector 
and Andromache. 

It may be confidently asserted, be- 
sides, that the spiritual atmosphere of 
Gothic cathedrals of the thirteenth 
century with their soul-inspiring sculp- 
tures in alabaster and bronze has not 
been surpassed in the architecture of 
the East. The pillars at Chartres with 
has reliefs of images and flowers could 
be bodily transported to the best relig- 

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HINDU ART 



ious edifices of Hindustan. The elon- 
gated Virgin at the Paris Notre Dame 
is almost as conventionalized as a Kor- 
ean Kwannon. The representation of 
virtues and vices on the portal of the 
Savior at the Amiens Cathedral sug- 
gests the moralizing in woodwork on 
the walls of Nikko in Japan. And 
scenes from the Passion on the tym- 
panum at Strassburg or from the Last 
Judgment on the tympanum of the 
north door in the Cathedral at Paris are 
oriented to the same psychological 
background as the has reliefs depicting 
incidents in the holy career of Buddha 
with which the Stoopas (mounds) of 
Central India make us familiar, or of 
the Dalai Lama on the surface of the 
marble pagoda at Peking. 

Further, it may be asked, can any 
Classicist rationally declare that the 

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HINDU ART 



Greek Apollos are not the creations of 
subjective, the so-called yogic or medi- 
tative experience? In what respects 
are the figures of the Hindu Buddhas 
and Shivas more idealistic? Polyklei- 
tos, for instance, dealt with abstract hu- 
manity, ideals, or "airy nothings" in the 
same sense as the artists of the Goopta 
period (A. c. 300-600) or Dhiman and 
Vitapala of the Pala period (780- 
1 175) in India. Nowhere has a sculp- 
tured image, has relief, or colored 
drawing been completely "photograph- 
ic." Art as such is bound to be inter- 
pretative or rather originative; and 
identification of the artist's self with his 
theme is the sine qua non of all creative 
elan, in science as in art. 

We have to recognize, moreover, that 
saints and divinities are not the exclu- 
sive themes of art work in India. 

20 



HINDU ART 



Hindu art has flourished in still life, 
social (genre), natural, plant, and ani- 
mal studies as well. The avoidance of 
the nude in early Christian art has its 
replica in the East. Physical beauty 
was not more often a taboo in Hindu 
art-psychology than in the Western. 
The dignity of the flesh has left its 
stamp on India's water colors, gouache 
paintings, and stone and bronze. 

Even the figures of the Hindu gods 
and goddesses are to be perceived 
as projections of the human person- 
ality. The medieval Rajput paint- 
ings of the Radha-Krishna cycle and 
the Shiva-Doorga cycle can have but 
one secular appeal to all mankind. 
Accordingly we are not surprised to, 
find in Dhananjaya the medieval 
dramaturgist's Dash'a-roopa the dic- 
tum that anything and everything can 

21 



HINDU ART 



be the theme of art (IV, 90, Haas's 
transl.). 

Lastly, can one forget that the condi- 
tions of life that produced the Byzan- 
tine and Italian masterpieces were al- 
most similar to the milieu (economic 
and socio-religious) including court 
patronage and guild control, under 
which flourished the celebrated Ajanta 
painters and Bharhut sculptors? For 
in the Middle Ages in Asia as in Eu- 
rope the church or the temple was the 
school, the art-gallery, and the mu- 
seum; the priests and monks were 
painters, poets, calligraphists and peda- 
gogues; and the Scriptures constituted 
the whole encyclopaedia. And if to- 
day it is possible for the Western mind 
to appreciate Fra Angelico, Massaccio, 
and Giotto, it cannot honestly ignore 
the great masters of the Hindu styles, 

22 



HINDU ART 



especially in view of the fact that the 
works of the Oriental medievals are 
not more "imperfect" in technique ac- 
cording to modern ideas than those of 
their Occidental fellow-artists. 

The fundamental identity of artistic 
inspiration between the East and the 
West, allowing for the differences in 
schools and epochs in each, is inci- 
dentally borne out by coincidences in 
social life for which art work is respon- 
sible. Thus, the interior, nave and 
aisles of the Buddhist cave temples do 
not impress an observer with any feel- 
ings different from those evoked by the 
early Christian churches and Norman 
Cathedrals. The towers and contours 
of the twelfth century Romanesque 
Cathedral at Ely and the sixteenth cen- 
tury Gothic structure at Orleans have 
the ensemble of the gopoorams of 

23 



HINDU ART 



Southern India. And the Gothic tap- 
estries representing the hunting scenes 
of a Duke of Burgundy suggest at the 
very first sight the aspects of medieval 
Hindu castles and the figures and head- 
dresses of the Indo-Saracenic Moghul 
styles. 

It may sometimes be difficult for a 
non-Hindu fully to appreciate the im- 
ages and paintings of India because 
their conventions and motifs are so pe- 
culiarly Hindu. Exactly the same dif- 
ficulty arises with regard to Western 
art. Who but a Christian can find in- 
spiration in a Last Supper or a Holy 
Family or a God dividing light from 
darkness? For that matter, even the 
Aeneid would be unintelligible to the 
modern Eur- American lovers of poetry 
unless they made it a point to study 
Roman history. Nay, a well-educated 

24 



HINDU ART 



Jew may naturally fail to respond to 
the sentiments in the Divine Comedy 
or Signorelli's Scenes from Dante. 

But the difficulties of appreciation 
by foreigners do not make an art-work 
necessarily "local" or racial. It may 
still be universal in its appeal and thor- 
oughly humanistic. There are hardly 
any people who in modern times can 
enter into the spirit of the Ka statues 
which stand by the sarcophagi in the 
cave tombs of the Pharaohs. And yet 
how essentially akin to modern man- 
kind were the Egyptians if we can de- 
pend on the evidences of their letters 1 
A Ka is described in one of the inscrip- 
tions thus: "He was an exceptional 
man; wise, learned, displaying true 
moderation of mind, distinguishing the 
wise man from the fool; a father to the 
unfortunate, a mother to the motherless, 

25 



HINDU ART 



the terror of the cruel, the protector of 
the disinherited, the defender of the op- 
pressed, the husband of the widow, the 
refuge of the orphan." There is no 
gap in fundamental humanity between 
the men and women of to-day and the 
race that could write such an epitaph, 
in spite of the fact that many of its con- 
ventions and usages seem entirely mean- 
ingless. 

The student of foreign literature has 
specially to qualify himself in order 
that he may understand the unfamiliar 
idioms of its language and the peculiar 
turns of expression. No other qualifi- 
cation is demanded in modern men and 
women for an appreciation of the old 
and distant carvings, statuettes and 
drawings. The chief desideratum is 
really an honest patience with the ra- 

26 



HINDU ART 



cial modes and paraphernalia of for- 
eign art. 

With this elementary preparation the 
Occidental connoisseur should be able 
to say about Hindu sculptures and 
paintings what Max Weber writes about 
all antiques in his essay on "Tradition 
and Now" : "Whether we have changed 
or not, I believe, in spite of all the man- 
ifestos to the contrary, in whatever 
tongue they be written or spoken, that 
the antiques will live as long as the sun 
shines, as long as there is mother and 
child, as long as there are seasons and 
climes, as long as there is life and 
death, sorrow and joy." (Essays on 
Art.) 



27 



SECTION III 

HUMANISM IN HINDU ART 

IN Shookra-neeti, a Hindu sociolog- 
ical treatise, we read a few injunc- 
tions against the construction of human 
images. We are told that "the images 
of gods, even if deformed, are for the 
good of men. But the images of men, 
even if well formed, are never for hu- 
man good." Shookra's generally rec- 
ognized dictum seems to be that "the 
images of gods yield happiness to men, 
and lead to heaven; but those of men 
lead away from heaven and yield 
grief." (Ch. IV, Sec, iv, lines 154— 
158, Sarkar's transl.) 

Verses of a similar import from 
shilpa-shastras (treatises on arts and 

28 



HINDU ART 



crafts) may be used as texts by those 
who want to prove the wholly non-sec- 
ular character of Hindu art. But such 
art critics would commit the same fal- 
lacy as those psychologists who formu- 
late the race-ideal of the entire Hindu 
population of all ages on the strength 
of a few sayings of Shakya the Buddha 
and other moralists. In spite of 
Shookra, Hindus have had sculptures 
of human beings in the streets and pub- 
lic places, has reliefs of warrior-kings 
on coins, and paintings of men and 
women on the walls of their houses, pal- 
aces, and art galleries. Secular art was 
an integral part of their common life. 
Imagery and similes from the worldly 
paintings and sculptures are some of 
the stock-in-trade embellishments of 
every literary work, e. g., poetry, fic- 
tion, drama, in India. 

29 



HINDU ART 



In Soobandhu's prose romance, Vas- 
avadatta (sixth century A. C), there is 
a description of the Vindhya mountain. 
One of the objects mentioned is the lion 
"with his sinewy frame, now rising 
high behind and now before." And 
the author is at once led to think of the 
scene as a possible theme of painting. 
Thus, 

"His ears erect, in sudden onslaught 

skilled, 
His mane astart, and jaws all hideous, 
His stiffened tail high-waving in the 

breeze — 
No artist could portray this awful beast 
What time he croucheth on the mighty 

brow 
Of some great elephant, shrill trumpeting 
Adown the lonely dells of Vindhya's 

mount." 

(Gray's version.) 

Painting was an accomplishment of 
the literary women. The box of 

30 



HINDU ART 



paints, canvas, pencil, tapestry, and pic- 
ture-frames are referred to in Charu- 
datta, Clay Cart, Raghu-vamsha, Oot- 
tara-rama-charita and Kadambaree. 
All these references apply to mundane 
paintings. In Vasavadatta, again, Pa- 
talipootra (Patna) is described as a city 
of which the conspicuous objects are 
the statues, which adorn the white- 
washed houses. 

It is almost a convention with the 
heroes and heroines of Hindu literature 
to speak of the faces of their beloved as 
"pictures fixed on the walls of the 
heart." This conceit occurs even in 
Krishnamishra's morality-play, Pra- 
bodha-chandrodaya (ele^^enilx cen- 
tury). 

In Soobandhu's romance the heroine 
Vasavadatta is seen by Kandarpaketu 
in a dream. She "was a picture, as it 

3i 



HINDU ART 



were, on the wall of life." And when 
he awoke he "embraced the sky, and 
with outstretched arms cried to his be- 
loved, as if she were painted in the 
heavens, graven on his eyes, and carven 
on his heart." Kandarpaketu goes to 
sleep "looking on that most dear one as 
if limned by the pencil of fancy on the 
tablet of his heart." 

Similarly Vasavadatta thinks of 
Kandarpaketu "as if he were carven on 
her heart ... as if he were engraved 
there, inlaid, riveted." She exclaims 
to one of her maidens: "Trace in a 
picture the thief of my thoughts." 
And, "over and over thinking thus, as 
if he were painted on the quarters and 
sub-quarters (of the sky), as if he were 
engraved on the cloud, as if he were re- 
flected in her eye, she painted him in a 
picture as if he had been seen before." 

32 



HINDU ART 



The joy of life in all its manifesta- 
tions is the one grand theme of all 
Hindu art. It is futile to approach the 
sculptors and painters of India with the 
notion of finding a typically Hindu 
message in them. The proper method 
should be to watch how far and in what 
manner the artist has achieved his ends 
as artist; i. e., as manipulator of forms 
and colors. Interpretation of life, or 
"criticism of life" may be postulated of 
every great worker in ink, bronze, or 
clay, whether in the East or in the 
West. The only test of a masterpiece, 
however, is ultimately furnished by the 
questions: "Is it consistent in itself? 
Does this handiwork of man add to the 
known types of the universe? Has it 
extended the bounds of Creation?" 

Human ideals are the same all the 
world over. One piece of art in India 

33 



HINDU ART 



may be superior to another in Europe, 
and vice versa. But this superiority is 
not necessarily a superiority in art-ideal 
or race-genius. It has to be credited to 
the individual gifts of the master in 
workmanship, or perhaps to the group 
psychology of a creative epoch. There 
is but one standard for all art (shilpa), 
but one world-measure for all human 
energy (shakti). And since neither 
the Eastern nor the Western evolution 
can be summed up in single shibboleths, 
types, or schools, it would be absurd to 
try to appraise Indian experience solely 
in terms of the aesthetics that found one 
of its most powerful expressions in the 
art-theory of the Young Germany rep- 
resented by Cornelius, Overbeck, Schil- 
ler and others (cf. Schiller's Use of the 
Chorus). 

34 



SECTION IV 

HINDU TECHNIQUE IN POST-IMPRES- 
SIONISM 

"MODERN" is the term that seems to 
have been monopolized by the artists 
who claim Cezanne as their inspirer. 
And yet in this modernism Old India's 
paintings and sculptures have been a 
stimulating force. 

The plastic art-creations at Bharhut 
and the frescoes at Ajanta constitute in 
stone and color, as we have indicated, 
the poetry of the whole gamut of hu- 
man emotions from "the ape and tiger" 
to the "god-in-man." The encyclo- 
paedic humanism of Hindu art is in- 
deed comparable only to the compre- 

35 



HINDU ART 



hensive secularism in the painted bas 
reliefs of Egyptian hill-caves and the 
stately Kakemonos of the Chinese mas- 
ters. While the message of the artists 
and craftsmen of India is thus universal 
as the man of flesh and blood, they de- 
veloped certain peculiarities in the 
technique and mode of expression 
which "he that runs may read." 

The most prominent characteristic of 
Hindu sculptures and paintings is what 
may be called the "dance-form." We 
see the figures, e. g., Shiva, the prince 
of dancers, or Krishna, the flute-player, 
in action, doing something, in the sup- 
ple movement of limbs. Lines of 
graceful motion, the play of geometric 
contours, the ripple of forms, the flow- 
ing rhythm of bends and joints in space 
would arrest the eye of every observer 
of the bronzes, water-colors, and gou- 

36 



HINDU ART 



ache works in India. Another charac- 
teristic that cannot fail to be noticed is 
the elimination of details, the suppres- 
sion of minuter individualities, on the 
one hand, and, on the other, the occa- 
sional elongation of limbs, the exagger- 
ation of features, etc. All this is 
brought about by the conscious impro- 
vising of a new "artistic anatomy" out 
of the natural anatomy known to the ex- 
act science of Ayurveda (medicine). 
In the swollen breasts, narrowed waists, 
bulky hips, etc., of Late Minoan or 
Cretan (c. 1500 B.C.) works which 
bridged the gulf between the Pharaonic 
and the primitive Hellenic arts we can 
see the analogues or replicas of some of 
the Hindu conventions. 

Leaving aside other characteristics, 
e. g., the absence of perspective, the 
grouping of color-masses, the free lais- 

37 



HINDU ART 



sez faire treatment of sentiments, and 
so forth, one can easily pick up the 
Hindu elements from the Cezannesque 
paintings and Rodin's sculptures and 
drawings. 

Let us listen first to Rodin lecturing 
on the beauties of Venus of Melos: 

"In the synthesis of the work of art 
the arms, the legs, count only when they 
meet in accordance with the planes that 
associate them in a same effect; and it is 
thus in nature, who cares not for our an- 
alytical description. The great artists 
proceed as nature composes and not as 
anatomy decrees. They never sculp- 
ture any muscle, any nerve, any bone, 
for itself; it is the whole at which they 
aim and which they express." (Dud- 
ley's transl., p. 15.) It is this theoriz- 
ing that virtually underlies Hindu art 
work. 

38 



HINDU ART 



Similarly Vincent Van Gogh (1830- 
1890) , the Dutch painter, who, if not in 
execution like Cezanne, has, at least in 
ideal, pioneered the new art movement 
of to-day, seems almost to have given 
the theory of Hindu art from the side 
of painting. Says he: 

"I should despair if my figures were 
correct; ... I think Michaelangelo's 
figures magnificent, even though the 
legs are certainly too long and the hips 
and the pelvis bones a little too broad. 
. . . It is my most fervent desire to 
know how one can achieve such devia- 
tions from reality, such inaccuracies 
and such transfigurations, that come 
about by chance. Well, if you like, 
they are lies, but they are more valuable 
than the real values." ( The Letters of 
a Post-Impressionist, transl. from the 
German by A. M. Ludovici, p. 23.) 

39 



HINDU ART 



Rodin was charged with the crime of 
being an "innovator" in art, for he in- 
troduced movement and action in stat- 
uary. His St. Jean Baptiste (1880) is 
a specimen in point, as also the inter- 
laced figure's like the Hand of God 
holding man and woman in embrace, 
Cupid and Psyche, Triton and Nereid, 
etc. In regard to this "new tech- 
nique," the representation of activity, 
we are told by Van Gogh that the "an- 
cients did not feel this need." "To 
render the peasant form at work is," as 
he reiterates, "the peculiar feature, the 
very heart of modern art, and that is 
something which was done neither by 
the Renaissance painters nor the Dutch 
masters, nor by the Greeks." {The 
Letters, 22, 24.) 

It is thus clear why the theory and 
practice that seek movement in art- 

40 



HINDU ART 



forms, appreciate an "incorrect" anat- 
omy, and look upon arbitrary propor- 
tions not as distortions but rather as 
"restorations," should find an affinity 
with the work of the Hindu masters. 
And the psychology of this post-im- 
pressionist a.rt-credo is perfectly nat- 
ural, because like the previous pre- 
Raphaelitism and the still earlier ro- 
manticism, the new art movement is es- 
sentially a revolt. It is a reaction 
against the Academicians' rule of 
thumb. It is born of a Bolshevistic 
discontent with the things that be, and 
of a desire to search for truth and 
beauty from far and old. 

This latest revolution against the 
status quo of art was brought about 
when Gauguin, the French master, con- 
ceived "the truth that the modern Eu- 
ropean and his like all over the globe, 

4i 



HINDU ART 



could not and must not, be the type of 
the future. Any thing rather than 
that! Even black men and women 
were better than that — cannibals, idol- 
ators, savages, anything!" (Ludovi- 
ci's introduction to The Letters, p. xii) . 
Such being their article of faith, con- 
temporary artists have been seized by 
Wanderlust. To-day they draw their 
inspiration from the Mexicans, May- 
ans, and other American-Indians, from 
the Negro art of the Congo regions, 
from Karnak and Nineveh, from the 
Tanagras of Greece and the "primi- 
tives" of Italy. And they roll their 
eyes from "China to Peru." Conse- 
quently the Buddhist, Shaiva, Vaish- 
nava, Moghul, and Rajput art of the 
Hindus could not but have been requi- 
sitioned to enlarge the list of the new 
Ossians and Percy's Reliques as whet- 

42 



HINDU ART 



ters of the futuristic imagination in the 
Western World. 

And the creative art endeavors of 
Young India's futurists are neither 
mere calls for "Back to the Past" nor 
harangues inciting to "Down with the 
West," as superficial observers or pro- 
fessional spiritualitarians would seem 
to read in the literary proclamations of 
the school. These are but the initial 
surgings of a dynamic shakti (energy) 
that had been pent up for a century and 
a half, — in its sadhana (effort) toward 
achieving the assimilation of this cos- 
mic neo-eclecticism of the modern 
world; so that a synthetic stage of cul- 
tural sva-raj (self-determination) may 
ultimately evolve, on which Asia will 
be enabled, as of old, freely to move 
and to strive, to un-make and to make, 
— boldly to borrow and to lend as an in- 

43 



HINDU ART 



dependent unit in the bourse of spir- 
itual exchange, — unhampered to strug- 
gle, to experiment, to live. 



U 



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