The Aesthetic Similarities Between Matisse, Leger, and the Kalighat Art of Calcutta.

It may seem unlikely that the work of two early twentieth century French artists would bear any resemblance to a folk art from Calcutta, but it does.  So convinced am I of the similarities, that I based my BA thesis on the subject.  I came to the conclusion that Matisse was working towards a more spontaneous form of expression, becoming adept at depicting a subject with as few lines or contours as possible. Matisse’s desire was to permeate these few lines with as much energy, character and emotion as possible, and his tireless perseverance paid off.  The Kalighat artists on the other hand reached the same point for different reasons.  They were artists from the villages of Bengal who settled in the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Calcutta in the early nineteenth century to try and make a better living.  They set up home beside the Kali temple where they began to paint pictures of the Hindu gods, as well as satirical images of the hypocrisies of life which they witnessed taking place around them – particularly in regards to priests and westernised male dandies known as babus.  Their works therefore, can be highly amusing and unusual.  They sold these paintings on cheap paper for very little money, so had to be incredibly prolific in order to make ends meet.  Thus they began to use as few lines as possible to save time, their well practised draughtsmanship enabling them to create extremely bold and expressive works very quickly.

So while Matisse was striving for an art which was concerned with essences, emotion, and simplicity, the Kalighat artists achieved something aesthetically similar through necessity. The latter continued painting until the early 1930s, and their work is said to be one of the first truly urban arts in the world.

This is evidence to me that at heart all human beings share the same fundamental needs: for shelter, food, love, family and so on, therefore these barriers that man has created to divide people are nonesensical and I hope one day these boundaries can be dissolved.

Matisse__Lorette_Green_Robe.jpg image by ole_willers

Fernand_leger_woman_vase_1924.jpg image by outoforbit

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~ by bethiarose on June 4, 2010.

5 Responses to “The Aesthetic Similarities Between Matisse, Leger, and the Kalighat Art of Calcutta.”

  1. Wow, definitely. The Leger similarities particularly strong – whether totally coincidental or in some sense derived (but I doubt it) … they are are totally uncanny!

  2. Oh good, I’m glad you think so! It took a long time to persuade my professor to agree with me, but in the end she did. There is in fact a small possibility that these artists did see examples of Kalighat art since it was already making its way into European museum collections, but I don’t feel that that is the reason for the resemblance.

  3. The similarities are undeniable! Just compare the last Leger with the first Kalighat. Another lovely post! You are quick…with there always being so much to ponder, review and enjoy 😉

  4. Thank you 🙂 I’m really enjoying working on this blog. Having the chance to look at and dream about art all day long (well not quite!), refreshing my memory and learning… I just had a look at your art gallery website Ian, you represent a very interesting group of artists! I shall pop in next time i’m in Vienna.

  5. Nuthin Laxshmi! It is a fulfilling area of the world to be involved in, I feel as you do, to look and dream is a blessing. Art is the great chance to reflect on life. Glad you like our artists, we would enjoy to see you when you are next in Vienna. We live above the gallery, so treat this as an official dinner invitation :)) Ian & Olivia

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