The Spirit of Indian Art-M.S. Srinivasan

(This story is based on an episode in the life of the great artist Sri Nandalal Bose)

Shanthiniketan— the great institution founded by Rabindranath Tagore. The art students were sitting all over the vast lawns of the institution-painting, drawing and sculpting. The head of the institution, one of the greatest artists of modern India, is moving among the students, watching and instructing them. He goes near a student who was trying to draw a huge tree in the centre of the lawns.

“But Saurab,” asked the Master “have you seen the Tree?” The student, astonished and irritated by the Master’s question, said “Sir, I am not blind”. The Master smiled and said, “Oh, Yes, obviously your outer eyes are very much intact, but your inner eyes—?: “The student stared at the Master, not understanding what the Master was trying to convey. The Master went on:

“I am not talking about the physical form of the Tree. What I am asking is whether you have seen the spirit of the Tree.”

The student asked:  “How to see the spirit of the Tree”. The Master replied: “Look and be with it. Meditate on it. Look at it in the soft glow of the early morning dawn, look at it in the blazing sun of the noon. Look at it in the cool light of the moon. Look at it in shine and rain and wind and storm.  Look at it with care, affection and love. Look and look and look—until one day the Spirit of the Tree will appear before you and say “Here I am”. Then draw and your art will be soulful and living.”

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