Part 6

Society’s Responsibility towards the Artists


The artists and the litterateurs are the guides of the society.

Society has the sacred duty:

  • to keep a watchful eye on their ease and comfort
  • to help them preserve their existence

This sense of duty is all the more necessary where art and literature is practiced as an indispensable part of social service, not as a profession.

People can on no account evade their responsibilities toward the artist, since art and literature are dedicated solely to service of the people. Where the state belongs to the people or is run according to their will – that is to say, in a democratic state – the government as the representative of the people, should take over this sacred responsibility.

When the government has to face various difficulties due to financial stringency or where the state due to some particular policy or any other cause is reluctant to give any encouragement to art, then the people outside the government in the private sector will have to shoulder this responsibility directly.

Taking into consideration the financial conditions of those who are cultivating the different fields of art today, we find that those who are practicing music are the most solvent. With cinema, radio and recording, musicians on the whole have ample opportunity to earn money by displaying their skill in social gatherings and variety entertainments.

Except for a few prominent individuals the condition of the majority of dancers and instrumentalists is not at all good; it is even worse than that of the singers. Nevertheless dance and instrumental music are far subtler than the art of vocal music. Reciters, too, have almost no scope to earn money. So many talented reciters usually stop their artistic endeavour due to the lack of sufficient encouragement by society.

Many people may perhaps think that these days actors and actresses are riding the crest of popularity. This may be true of a handful of people, but not of the collectivity. Only those who have earned their reputation in the cinema or on the professional stage have a good income, and indeed they do very well; but for those actors of mediocre talent, the scope of earning money is quite limited.

No one is willing to give new actors and actresses a chance. Even if they are given the opportunity to perform, the amount of wages offered them is not even adequate for their subsistence. Most directors do not want to take risks with new and young actors and actresses. Art producers and distributors find it more convenient to increase the sales of their films with old and seasoned stars. Most of the producers that have experience in the film business are not knowledgeable about the technique and standard of the art of the film, and so they too do not come forward to help the new artists.

Therefore, on the whole, in all countries of the world the only hope of new-comers with histrionic talents is the professional stage.

Non-professional theatres in the countries where they do not receive appreciable state aid, are in a decrepit condition due to their failure to compete with the cinemas. So it has not been possible for them to accommodate the new artists.

If dramatic art is to develop properly – indeed, if it is to be kept alive at all – then every country must adopt a strong policy. The first step of this policy must be to build up fully or partially government aided theatres in every major village and city, which must be exempt form amusement taxes. Of course the people should expect that the government will adopt a liberal policy and award full freedom to the non-official connoisseurs of art in the selection of the subject matter of the dramas.

If the condition is imposed that none of he political groups be allowed to use dramas as the media of their party propaganda, this will be a welcome measure. When the number of theatres are increased and dramatic performances are popularized, there will be a greater demand for dramas. This will certainly encourage the talented authors to write dramas. It is because dramas do not sell well that powerful authors do not want to write dramas. If dramas receive proper remuneration, then there will certainly be a change in the authors’ outlook. Furthermore, if the number of theatres is increased, the playwrights will no longer have to depend upon the generosity of a few big theatre magnates; for if the dramas prove their worth in the theatres, the playwrights will not have to worry about how to sell their dramas.

One more step, in my opinion, that may be taken in order to encourage the dramatists, is to give them financial help in the form of a daily honorarium for the number of days their dramas run on the stage, regardless of whether they are professional or non-professional. This will give the dramatists the opportunity to earn some money whenever their dramas are staged and thereby keep them free from the cares of subsistence. Then they will be able to apply their minds to writing more and more new dramas for human society.

Gone are the days of poems and poetry as a commercial proposition. Books of poetry sell even less than dramas, and it is hard to say how far the slogan “Read more poetry” will help. But I think we should expect good results if the custom of presenting books of poems at various social ceremonies and festivals is introduced. The poets may even get sufficient encouragement if different books of poetry are selected as textbooks for higher classes, that is, each book by a single poet. If the compositions of the different poets are compiled in one single book, none of the poets will reap any financial benefit.

Encouraging Painting and Sculpture

Painting and sculpture, the two subtlest of the arts, are the most deprived of popular encouragement and sympathy. It may be argued that the sculptors of those countries where idolatry is prevalent have been able to preserve their art due to popular support, and the problem of their subsistence is thus beings solved without any government aid. Is this not, some say, the most significant sign of popular support?

I cannot persuade myself, however, that the people of idolatrous countries are connoisseurs and patrons of sculptural art. There is no doubt that the people of these idolatrous countries buy images from the image-makers, but they do this under the inspiration of their religion and not our of love for art. If love of art were their motivation, then they would certainly not throw those symbols of art into the water after worship. The situation is different where people buy images of metal, wood or stone to permanently establish a deity in their homes: but there, too, the buyer’s intention is not to encourage art.

Although they pay some attention to the beauty and sweetness of the image, they do not give a free hand to the sculptor in its creation, for the artists always have to work confined within the boundaries of the religious eulogies to particular gods: they seldom have any opportunity to display their own conceptual originality. Hence the observation that the people of idolatrous countries patronise art by buying images is not correct: they only help to preserve a particular class of artists.

In order to encourage the art of image-making, the artists should be given full freedom, or else their creations will be mere made-to-order, commonplace things. The artists should freely mould images of human beings, animals, natural objects, and all natural and unnatural events. Producing newer and newer thoughts and ideas daily, they will go on moulding newer and newer gods, and the hymns of the gods will evolve centring around the images of their art.

Then alone will art find its justification. The creations of the artist will not remain confined within the four walls of the temples, but will rather be in close touch with the common people in all spheres of social life. Statues, deities and other creations will attain a place in every field of social life – in homes, drawing rooms, clubs, schools, parks, and indeed, everywhere. Sculptural art must be made popular by occasionally holding exhibitions as well. Regardless of whether the image-makers receive patronage or not for their idols, there is still a class of people who are getting the opportunity of practising the art of painting.

At one time a number of small groups of painters emerged in different countries. In Bengal for instance, there was a class of people who took to painting as their community trade: they were known as patuas, or painters. Of course, while painting gods and goddesses, they had to work according to the specifications embodied in the sacred hymns, and thus they had very little scope for original expression. Nevertheless, apart from these divine images, they used to paint many other things as well, taking full advantage of their freedom and opportunities. The people of the society used to patronise these patuas in the same way as they did other artisans and professionals.

Together with their purchases from the market, they would also buy one or two pictures painted by these village artists. But those days are gone now. Today the paintings of these artists have lost their prestige due to various psychological and economic causes. With the development of the sophisticated techniques of printing it has become far too easy for people to collect different types of cheap and showy pictures. This has afforded opportunities to a few reputed artists to earn money and they, in turn, have no doubt provided opportunities to some other traders to earn money as well; but in the process they have uprooted the patua community from society.

The lack of proper appreciation is one of the causes of the destruction of this art, if not the chief cause. The people of India have not at all appreciated the pictures painted by the village artists, considering them to be most ordinary or even unnatural; instead they buy, at higher prices, pictures of the same kind or of inferior quality, which are painted by reputed artists of distant lands. Previously people looked down on the paintings of Jamini Roy as the pictures of Kalighat, but when a famous gentleman from a faroff country showered unstinted praise upon these very Kalighat-brand pictures, then the local people deigned to take a little interest in him.

Long ago, Jamini Roy should have received the recognition which he has today. Truly speaking, most people have constantly ignored the merits and demerits, the speciality and charm of the art of painting, and that is why it is incumbent on the state or the cultural institutions to keep alive this art and its artists. Furthermore, they must awaken in the people an artistic outlook; that is, it is the duty of these very institutions to make people appreciative of art.

As artists the names of Nandalal Bose and Aban Thakur are well established today: yet I think the people would have taken a much longer period to recognize them, had the recognition of Rabindranath not preceded them. To buy the original paintings of the artists is often beyond the means of the people and so, in spite of their love of art, they are generally satisfied with inferior substitutes: in other words, they decorate their homes with copies. The artists do not usually benefit financially from this, and indeed very often they suffer losses – and not only financially. To remedy this, art galleries should be maintained in the major clubs and libraries; the original paintings can be lent to the members in exactly the same way as books are loaned form the libraries. In this way the artists, especially the new ones, will get great encouragement. The clubs and libraries may even print the pictures that become particularly popular.

Authors’ Publishing Cooperatives

When we consider those who are the most numerous and the most vocal among the artists today, we find that their literary practice has generally not been able to solve the problem of their subsistence.

In most cases, the profit of litterateurs is being gobbled up by the publishers.

We hear everywhere that there is a slump in the book market, and the royalty rates for new writers is not even discussed in society. If those who are the pioneers of society, who portray the past in the present and the present for future posterity, who offer suggestions of the picture of the future to the people of the present – if they are forced to starve or half-starve, this will certainly not be to the credit of human society.

It is unthinkable that these creative geniuses should curse their own fate.

In my opinion the litterateurs themselves will have to find the solution to this problem.

They should publish their books themselves, on a cooperative bases.

They are unable to operate this business individually. They should not be dominated by a capitalistic, materialistic mentality.

They should not constantly blame the governments without reason.

If book publishing falls in the hands of the government, litterateurs may suffer more harm than good.

The publishing business must be kept completely in private organizations.


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