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    Government College of Art and Craft, Kolkata

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    One of the oldest art institutions in India, the Government College of Art and Craft is regarded as the birthplace of the *Bengal School, a nineteenth-century art movement that rejected European Modernism for a distinctly Indian approach to visual arts. Founded in 1839 by the English surgeon Frederick Corbyn at Garanhata, Chitpur, as the Calcutta Mechanics Institution, it was renamed and moved to its present location near the Indian Museum, Kolkata in 1892. It is also known as the Government School of Art and Craft, the Calcutta School of Art and the Government School of Art.

    The College was originally established with the aim of providing Indian youth with an education in industrial skills to widen their intellectual horizons and expand their scope for employment. Under HH Locke’s leadership (1865–85) the institution produced artists and designers trained in the Western academic tradition, through courses on lithography, wood engraving, photography, painting and modelling design. This changed after EB Havell took charge as the principal in 1896 and discontinued instruction based on British academic principles. Along with the vice principal Abanindranath Tagore, Havell worked to develop the tenets of Indian Modernism and incorporate them in the curriculum. 

    During this period, the College rejected the Western pedagogical and aesthetic sensibilities predominant within art institutions in the country, instead shifting the focus to Indian design, applied arts, traditional handicrafts and the decorative arts. Several new courses were introduced, teaching techniques such as fresco painting, lacquerwork and stained-glass painting. This provided the early impetus for the development of the Bengal School, which emphasised traditional Indian art forms, including Mughal and Pahari miniatures, the traditional handicrafts of India and ancient scriptures such as the Vedas

    Several alumni of the College emerged as founding figures of Indian modernism, such as Asit Kumar Haldar, Nandalal Bose, Biren De, Haren Das, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Paresh Maity, Mukul Dey and more. Dey served as the institution’s principal from 1928 to 1943 and initiated its first publication, Our Magazine, in 1931, publishing reproductions of works by faculty and students. 

    Now affiliated with the University of Calcutta, the College offers Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts programmes in sculpture, graphic design, textiles, ceramic art and pottery, design (wood and leather) and painting. It also began offering a doctoral degree in the fine arts in 2005 and is one of the only institutions in the country to offer specialised programmes in Indian painting. Additionally, it organises cultural events such as film screenings, workshops, lectures and annual exhibitions. 

    At the time of writing, the institution is headed by Chhatrapati Dutta, who has been the principal since 2017. 


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