Founded in 1915 in Calcutta (now Kolkata) by the Tagore family, the Bichitra Club was a studio that explored various styles and methods of painting and printmaking. It derives its name from the Bengali word bichitra, meaning “variety,” a reference to the plurality of styles and artistic and intellectual visions of its members.
The Club was an important cultural institution in Calcutta in the early twentieth century, providing a space for writers and artists to meet and hold discussions. Rabindranath Tagore was its primary patron, while Gaganendranath Tagore served as the director and Abanindranath Tagore was its first teacher. Other notable members included Mukul Chandra Dey, Surendranath Kar and Nandalal Bose.
The meetings and salons of the Club were held in the Tagores’ ancestral home in Jorasanko. The Club also offered studio space and lessons in drawing, music and theatre, and later, industrial arts such as pottery and carpentry. It also acted as a library that housed over seven thousand books from the collections of the Tagore family.
The Club was created by practitioners of the Bengal School, but its members adopted several artistic and intellectual approaches. For instance, Gaganendranath Tagore abandoned the Revivalist aesthetic of the Bengal School and turned to exploring Cubism in his work, while Abanindranath Tagore, who used the Japanese wash technique in his paintings, also encouraged printmaking techniques, woodcuts and lithographs.
In 1916, after Rabindranath Tagore travelled abroad, the club’s activities dwindled and eventually stopped altogether. Tagore subsequently appointed Japanese artist Kampo Arai to reignite membership and interest in the club. Between 1917–18, Arai encouraged the adoption of new techniques and collaborations, including Japanese methods of painting, initiating what is considered to be the club’s most fruitful year. Interest and activity in the club nevertheless dwindled by the mid-1920s, and it was eventually dissolved, although the exact year of its conclusion remains unknown.
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