|Hindostan or British India map, c.1864.|
Continuing in my intermittent series on visual contextualization in India, I want to give an overview on the Bengal Renaissance and its influence on 20th century Indian Christian artists.
|Orientalist official of the|
East India Company (circa 1760)
The Bengal Renaissance began around 1895 as a nationalistic reaction to the policies of the British. Kedarnath Datta Bhaktivinoda writes,
The basis of the Bengal Renaissance was East-West contact. With the spread of European colonial power around the world through the agency of the East Indian Company and similar organizations, many regions of Asia, including India, experienced tremendous upheaval to their traditional cultures. Bengal was perhaps the first region in Asia to have its culture radically transformed through this interaction with the West. In Bengal five important influences led to the Bengal Renaissance: the rise of British–Bengali commerce, the introduction of English education, British Orientalism, Christianity, and perhaps most importantly how the Bengali intellectuals themselves responded to these influences.
Several Christians artists began their training at Shantiniketan, where their Christian faith was viewed sympathetically by the Hindu professors, whose nationalism "was a kindly [one], loving and serving its country without any hatred of other races or of non-Hindu religions" (Butler, 127). These Christian artists included Angelo da Fonseca, Vinayak S. Masoji, A.D. Thomas and Jaya Appasamy. In fact, due to the tolerance practiced at Shantiniketan, even non-Christian artists such as Jamini Roy often turned to Biblical themes in their artwork.
In my next post I'll write more about one of the Christian artists mentioned above, A. D. Thomas.