Within the covers of this amazing book EDITH TOMORY has packed and illustrated a veritable treasury of history, legends, verifiable facts and information. Fine Arts, largely seen and appreciated for the nonce, have seldom received the scholarly and steadily historical attention in India. The real strength of Tomory's book is that it surveys, analyses, and compares in tandem Indian and Western traditions and forms of Fine Arts.
Indian Art, to which Tomory devotes more than half of her book, begins with a general survey from Protohistorical through the Ancient, Medieval, Modern to the contemporary. Of special is its very helpfully detailed coverage of school and traditions, styles and signatures of public and private artistic forms: architecture, sculpture, printing and the Kitsch.
"The West" is a division by itself which devotes separate descriptions and illustrative writs on Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern Art and its manifold manifestations in European regions and nations.
Written specially for beginners and those general readers whose knowledge about Fine Arts is sketchy, this book is rich in information and copious in other readerly apparatuses such as a Glossary of Art-terms, Further Reading lists, Maps, Plates, Mudras, and a cross-referential Index. Tomory's achievement in introducing Fine Arts to us is hard to match either in terms of its wealth of details and analysis or its extremely reader-friendly strategies.
Sister Edith Tomory received her art education in France and Italy and completed her doctoral studies in Fine Arts in Germany. A woman of vision and determination, she founded the Department of Fine Arts in Stella Maris College, Chennai, in 1948. Among the many recognitions for her work are the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's "Stree Ratna" award and the Hungarian government's award for promoting higher education.
In order to bring the fascinating riches of artistic development within the reach of college and university students as well as general readers, the Fine Arts Department of Stella Maris College - the staff', graduates and students - have collaborated in compiling this present volume, aided by the precious advice and help of numerous friends and experts in relevant fields.
In this desire to bring the superabundant wealth of art within the means of students and the general public we could do no more than select some of the most distinctive and outstanding contributions in the long development of art in our own vast country, together with a survey of the growth of art in the West, trusting that this will arouse interest in the artistic contributions of other cultures as well.
Stress has been laid on India's most distinctive role in world -art-its development of rock-cut architecture and its immense wealth of stone carvings, illustrated by many line drawings contributed by the Stella Maris Fine Arts Department.
Since a better appreciation of Indian art requires also an understanding of its conventions and vocabulary, these have been especially explained in the glossary and illustrations of the symbolic gestures have been provided. Since so-called facts always remain open to further discoveries and different points of view, no really conclusive statements are possible in the field of art, subject as it is to personal tastes and stages of understanding.
In the choice of subjects and works, emphasis has been laid chiefly on those that contributed to original development. For this reason some have received more coverage. Moreover, where comprehensive literature is not easily available on topics like rock-cut architecture and modern world art, these have received more attention.
By nature, human beings love to beautify themselves and their surroundings; and they also like to share their feelings and ideas with other people. This tendency shows itself 'in every place and age. Even primitive men decorated their earthenware pots with lines or colours for the sheer delight of seeing them-although these have no practical use. When civilisation progressed and people had more means and time at their disposal to make things beautiful or artistic, they produced many works of art, . such as imposing buildings with ornamental gardens, paintings and sculpture. In fact, art holds an honoured place in every great civilisation since beauty serves to enrich our souls with spiritual joy.
Beauty appears primarily in nature-in a pretty flower, a rugged mountain or a glorious sunset. This is natural beauty-the divine creation. Artistic beauty proceeds from man a fine painting, a graceful statue, an elegant home, soul-stirring music. Works of art show great variety because human beings differ in their tastes or appreciation of beauty.
This appreciation or feeling for beauty results from the cooperation or working together of a number of powers. First, our senses, especially our eyes and ears, perceive or notice something beautiful outside us. Artists usually have more sensitive and penetrating powers of perception. The mind, however, plays the most important part, for it alone recognises the beauty that lies beyond what we see, hear or feel. The memory stores up these impressions, until the creative imagination conceives them in a new order, ready to give birth to artistic expression. Since the appreciation and creation of art comes chiefly from the human gift of reflection, and because beauty arouses joy, great art can and should bring spiritual enchantment. Art harmonises well with human nature since all of' man's powers can> come into play. It starts from something tangible or concrete, perceived by the senses, and leads on to spiritual understanding by the mind and enjoyment by the heart or soul. Thus it helps a great deal to educate-to lead the human spirit from material perception to spiritual understanding and love through the attraction of joy in beauty-or, as the philosophers would say, from beauty to truth and goodness.
The arts are sometimes divided into 'art in time', like music which lasts only as long as we hear the tune; 'art in spate and time' like dancing which exists in space but only for a time; and 'art in space', namely the visual or spatial arts formed out of some permanent material.
To produce the visual arts, one needs not only a keener sense to perceive or notice the beauty around, a more penetrating mind to understand its hidden attraction or meaning, and a creative imagination to communicate and interpret the enjoyment to others, but also the skill to imprint one's feelings on permanent material like wood, stone, metal or canvas. An artist needs the ability to organise the few/basic elements of-his material-line, colour, light and shade, texture, area, .mass and .volume and to put them into the right relationships so that they will give birth to something beautiful. To achieve this loveliness, the work must have unity in variety, balance, coherence and correct emphasis. The essential meaning or message must stand out clearly, enhanced by the less important details but not smothered by them.
Great art serves not only as a means of self- expression but of communication. The artist has discovered something worthwhile, some good which he desires to share with others. For his part, the onlooker must learn the language of art-he requires some training to observe, recognise and understand the meaning of true beauty.
The visual arts, commonly referred to as fine arts, include .architecture, sculpture, painting and the minor arts.
The term fine arts sometimes includes literature, music, dance and drama, but in this book, it is restricted to the more common meaning of the spatial arts only.
Architecture or building art pertains to the construction of houses, places of worship, factories and many other structures, consisting usually of walls and roofs enclosing space, to serve man's needs of habitation and civil life. The plan or form of the building conforms to its purpose. The materials for its construction may be wood, stone, brick, tile, concrete, steel, glass and many others. The site or location of the edifice also has great influence on the planning of its shape. There will be differences according to whether the building stands in a crowded city or in the countryside amidst gardens, whether in a flat or hilly terrain, or in a cold or hot climate. Engineering, or the mechanical activity in building, provides the stability needed so that the fabric does not collapse. In addition, aesthetic considerations help to make the edifice beautiful.
Sculpture is the art of producing statues by cutting, carving or hewing them out of a block of wood or stone or some other hard substance, or by modelling them out of some plastic material. According to the derived form, sculpture may be in the round, like a standing or seated statue, or relief sculpture where the carved figures stand out from the background to which they remain attached. High reliefs and low reliefs depend on the degree of their projection. Relief sunk into the surface came into use in Egypt. In low relief the background has the same level as the height of the figures. In the intaglio or cut-in process, used for gems, all the parts that usually protrude in a relief are incised deeply so that the impression produces the relief image.
Painting is the art of making pictures by' applying colours to a flat surface like wood. canvas, wall or paper, in order to create a two- dimensional image or to give the illusion or three dimensions by making the figures appear round and giving the impression of depth. To make them adhere to the surface, the colours or pigments must be mixed with some binding material, called the medium. The most common media are water-colour, tempera, oils and fresco. The" minor arts include various processes by which craftsmen create objects that combine beauty with utility, such as pottery, metal work. textiles and many others.
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