History of Academy of Fine Arts
Established in 1933 by Lady Ranu Mukherjee, the Academy hosts an impressive collection of miniature paintings, Indian textiles and sculptures. It was initially located in a room loaned by the Indian Museum, and the annual exhibitions used to take place in the adjoining verandah. The Academy is a place where the city's culturally conscious intellectuals converge.
In the 1950s, a discussion between Sri Jawaharlal Nehru (the then Prime Minister of India) and Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy brought about the idea of building an Art Gallery in an important city like Kolkata. Lady Ranu Mukherjee was commissioned to select a suitable land where the art gallery could come up. With the efforts of Lady Ranu Mookerjee and support by B.C. Roy, Chief Minister of West Bengal, as well as Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, the academy was shifted to a much larger space in the Cathedral Road, beside St. Paul’s Cathedral, the present location. Jahar Dasgupta is the President and eminent painter Asit Paul is the Vice President of Academy of Fine Arts. The Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata building was erected in 1959-1960. The premise of The Academy of Fine Arts was build with donation from the Academy's Board of Trustees.
Array of Galleries in the Academy of Fine Arts
The Academy of Fine Arts offers several interesting attractions to the art connoisseurs. The ground floor of the Academy comprises of 8 galleries, which has the fame of being the largest gallery space in India. It showcases a massive collection of paintings, sculptures, Indian textiles and so on. Among the galleries, the Rabindra Gallery opened in 1962 contains original paintings of Tagore along with published and unpublished manuscripts in Bengali and English. The Textile Gallery contains several exquisite specimens of hand-woven fabrics like Dhakai, Baluchari, patola, brocade, Benarasi silk and jamewar shawls. The Miniatures Gallery contains some authentic Mughal miniatures, which look wonderful and reminds of the Oriental style. The Contemporary Art Galleries boasts painting and sculptures of India from 1900 to till date which has a charming collection of Abanindranath Tagore and Gaganendra Nath Tagore, who was the first to introduce cubism in India. Abanindranath's popular disciples such as Nandalal Bose, Asit Kumar Haldar, Kshitin Mazumdar, Samar Gupta and their disciples like Benod Behari Mukherjee, Sarada Ukil, Sudhir Khastagir, Ram Kinkar Beij and others are all represented here. In the Gallery of Engravings on India, renowned painters like Hodges, Zoffany, Sir Charles O D'oyly and the Danniells find a place; they all belonged to the era of painting in 18th and 19th Centuries. There is a Gallery of contemporary Graphics and Line Drawings as well.
There is also a Studio-cum-Sketching Club in the Academy since 1957 for the benefit of the working artists. Moreover, there is also a children's section from the age group of 4 to 14 years. The aural of the Academy's auditorium is among the best in the country. Apart from all these, the Government of West Bengal has gifted a mobile Art Van that runs all through the districts of West Bengal with a trained lecturer to show the artist's representation.
Hence in the cultural scenario of the country, Academy of Fine Arts performs a great task in the promotion of art and culture in all its diversity. Several activities in the Academy involve conducting of exhibitions, organizing lectures, publishing booklets, bulletins, catalogues and literature on the matter of art. The subsidiary activities include, sketching and sculpture studios at the back of the garden. The Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata remains open from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission fee is nil. It will take any visitor about 2 hours to cover all the attractions. A visit to the Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata would present a vivid picture of Bengal's fascination with art.