The Telegraph
Thursday , January 10 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
Palette perfect
government college of art and craft, calcutta

Nandalal Bose studied here. So did Jamini Roy, Somenath Hore, Chintamani Kar, Hemen Majumdar, Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi, Sunil Das, and Jogen Chowdhury.

The institution in question, of course, is the venerable Government College of Art and Craft (GCAC) in Calcutta, India’s oldest arts college. Established as a society in 1852, it was later converted into a school of industrial art with its campus in Chitpur in north Calcutta. In 1864, the school moved to Bowbazar Street and and then moved to its own building on Jawaharlal Nehru Road, its current location, in 1892.

GCAC offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a two-year master’s degree in visual arts. Bachelor of fine arts (BFA) students specialise in any of the eight fields on offer for study — painting (Indian style), modelling and sculpture, graphic designing, textiles, ceramics and pottery, wood, leather and print making —after studying the basics of all of these in the first year.

In the master of visual arts (MVA) programme, the two basic disciplines are painting and sculpture. The former comprises painting in the Indian style (done using watercolours) and printmaking, while the latter includes applied art, textile design, ceramic art and pottery, and wood and leather design.

BFA students, who take up painting, specialise in portrait making, life drawing, still life and antique study, composition, mural drawing, printmaking and sketching. The emphasis is on the wash style of painting, which Abanindra Nath Tagore, the key person behind the revival of the Oriental School of Painting, introduced in the curriculum. Wash is a technique wherein painting solvents are applied with wet brushes on a wet or dry paper or canvas. Besides, students here also learn to “copy”original paintings. There’s a great demand for “copy painters” across the globe.

So the range of study options is varied and fairly extensive, as the following shows.

nThe modelling and sculpture department teaches life study, head study, portrait, composition, moulding and casting (in bronze and fibreglass), stone carving, plaster moulding, clay modelling, wood carving, terracotta and embossing.

nThe graphic design or applied arts department provides training in stream drawing, sketching, 3D design, typography, outdoor advertisements, illustrations, print making and photography.

nThe textile designing department is involved with weaving, printing (block, screen and other types), dyeing, design, drawing, life study and sketching.

nThe ceramic art and pottery section teaches students to design, glaze and finish ceramic pottery as well as ceramic sculpting and pottery drawing.

nThe wood and leather studies department focuses on water and oil colour works, object drawing, life drawing, sketching, wooden sculpture, and interior design, apart from working on wooden and leather mediums.

nThe print making department is involved in imparting training in linocut, lithography (the process of printing from a smooth surface), etching, computer graphics and digital printing.

Students with 40 per cent marks in Plus Two can apply for BFA. They have to take an admission exam that tests the drawing skills and aptitude of the candidate. To study MVA, a student must obtain 55 per cent in BFA as well as clear the admission test.

The annual fees for BFA and MVA are Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500, respectively. The academic session for both starts in June. In 2005, the college also introduced a doctoral programme that is affiliated to Calcutta University.

The college believes in hands-on training. “Final-year BFA students who specialise in graphic design work intern with advertising agencies or the print or electronic media,” says Gautam Das, a lecturer.

Rebanta Goswami, the officer in charge and professor of the graphic designing section, says the institute has recorded 100 per cent placement for the past few years. Some students also become entrepreneurs. But the initial years are quite tough for a painter who branches out on his or her own.

“Most BFA students are forced to go outside Bengal for higher studies because of the lack of adequate faculty members in the postgraduate department,” says Pallavi Majumder, a third-year student of painting.

Few would dispute the college’s ancient lineage and proud traditions. Its first principal was Sir Henry Hover Locke. The students were taught according to the syllabus of the Royal College of Art, London. Abanindra Nath Tagore was its vice-principal for 10 years. The school became a college in 1951.

But its hoary roots are much in evidence too. “There’s an urgent need for infrastructure upkeep. We need an electric furnace for metal and glass casting,” laments Siddharth Chaudhury, a student of modelling and sculpture department.

Vital Statistics

WHAT IS IT? A government college offering bachelor’s and master’s degree in visual arts

WHO’S THE BOSS? Rebanta Goswami is the officer-in-charge

Where is it? 28 Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Calcutta-700016,

Phone: 22522186 Website:


Good faculty; workshops with eminent painters and sculptors; good placement


Dilapidated infrastructure, inadequate faculty members at the postgraduation level

Chandreyi Karmakar