The Sight/Site of Woman in the Art of the Forties: Reality, Realism and Representation
This paper will study how women were imaged by some important artists of Bengal in the forties and the socio-moral connotations implicit in these constructs. The forties saw a vast change in the class origins of artists who challenged the prevailing notions regarding the subject of art, representational styles and the purpose of art. Art in the forties was closely associated with the development of an artist's individual mode of perception, style and talent and the process of intellectualisation of art. For this new generation of art-school trained artists, art was a full-time profession. In the search for new subjects and styles, the image of the woman became one of the sites of tensions and struggles between the earlier and the contemporary artists of the forties. New types of consumers far removed from the feudal aesthetics governing classical art demanded a new form of art which reflected their own lived experience.
The art of this period hence revolved around a search for new ways of comprehending and representing reality. In the debates on aesthetics that followed, "idealism" and "spiritual essence" of the nationalist projects were replaced by new categories such as "contemporary realism" and "socialist realism". Yet from the onset of these deliberations, it was apparent that realism as an aesthetic category accommodated various ideological connotations and thus the range of images created proved to be diverse.
In the 1935 conference of Progressive Writers Association, the need for realism in art was first discussed and was unanimously considered the only common ground where writers could meet with their readers. Although the participant writers such as Sajjad Zahir, Munshi Premchand and Samar Sen agreed that realism was the only
* Teaches at Rashtraguru Surendranath College, Barrackpur, West Bengal.
Social Scientist, Vol. 28, Nos. 3- 4, March-April 2000