Teach and tell: The gurus of art

Some of India’s greatest artists have also been teachers, but have they merely handed over a tradition or inspired fresh thinking?
By: Kishore Singh
Published: Sep 10, 2016
Teach and tell: The gurus of art

Image by : DAG Modern Archives

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Teaching is always considered the ‘lesser’ profession in any field as successful students far outperform their teachers in terms of careers and remunerations. Was Dronacharya the greater archer for training Arjuna, or Arjuna better for outperforming his guru? While the jury is out on that—and perhaps will be for a long time—the art world too has had its share of great teachers who have trained even greater artists. Here, however, we look at great artists who were equally great teachers (or vice-versa) and how they were a source of inspiration for their students.

[Pictured above]
Gulam Mohammed Sheikh (b. 1937)
Taught at: Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Baroda (now Vadodara)
 
Gulam Mohammed Sheikh is a towering presence in Baroda, among India’s best-known centres for art education and practice. Part of the hugely influential Group 1890 collective that held just one exhibition—inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru in the presence of Mexican poet Octavio Paz—he later changed his stance to the narrative, as opposed to the group’s ideology of the image having its own and only relevance; his practice changed to a more inclusive manner of storytelling. Sheikh and his wife, artist Nilima Sheikh, have since become the face of what has come to be called the Baroda School. His work juxtaposes the figurative against a recreated landscape, which results in an almost mythic way of recounting—a quality of the spiritual that infuses the paintings. As writer, critic and editor, his thinking has influenced others and served to rein in his own art practice so that the result is finely edited and there is nothing extraneous to be seen in his work.