The Activity Club of Victoria Memorial Hall in its newest initiative has put together the ‘Lalit Pathshala’, a unique interactive session which makes art accessible to students and helps them read art through simple steps. The sessions are open to all students between 10 years to 15 years and no charges are applicable for attending them. While the first session of its kind occurred on Thursday April 13, the second session is scheduled for Thursday April 27, 2023. My Kolkata attended the first session of this two-part series and here’s a glimpse of what transpired.
Session in progress
What is art?
The primary question which kicked off the session was ‘What is Art?’ Interestingly, with the concept of no wrong answers, participants were asked to identify artworks between the original artworks and similar reproductions. Though the participants could somewhat identify some features of art, the question that lurked behind every answer then was – are photographs, memes, cartoons, performing arts, anime etc not defined in the scope of art? This is food for thought for all participants as to how they perceive art.
Tickling your grey cells
State Entry into Delhi of Lord and Lady Curzon
Young minds were on a mission to decode what then is art? Does it have to have fame? Does the artist need to have the accurate skills to make the work? Do they always need to be original? Are reproductions or copies, which require skills, not considered as artwork? What about aesthetic and symmetry? Does rarity in its availability also qualify it for an artwork? These parameters were discussed carefully while the participants were engrossed in the activity of distinguishing between original artworks and reproductions. Shikhorini Ghosh from class V of Calcutta Girls’ High School pointed, “I learnt about art and its forms. This is my first time inside Victoria Memorial as well. Earlier, I had come only to the gardens so I liked the session overall.”
The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) at Jaipur, 4 February 1876
One of the most interesting part of the session was getting hold of the nuances of reading art. The participants were shown the oil painting ‘Death of Socrates’ by Jacques-Louis David housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to start their journey in reading artworks. The principle rule for reading any artwork is that it can be read from right to left and vice-versa and reading from both sides might give various perspectives to the artwork. A few parameters to keep in mind regarding any work includes – when was it made? By whom was it made? Why was it made or what it depicts? Is there a history of the artwork? What are the elements of the artwork and what do they signify? What does the colour palette signify? What is the maximum dramatic moment of the art? These pointers help in decoding the basics of any artwork.
After understanding the basics, the participants tried to decode some artworks from the collection of Victoria Memorial Hall. ‘State entry into Delhi of Lord and Lady Curzon’ by Roderick MacKenzie in 1903 was one of the oil paintings which were read during the session. The participants tried to identify the people including royals, guards and commoners; the contrasting background colour palette with the sky being blue and the ground being its opposite – red; the kind of animals drawn on the painting; the way people were drawn and more. Lastly, they were also asked to guess the original size of the painting before visiting it in the museum. Rajdeep Datta from Shibpur S.S.P.S Vidyalaya who studies in class VIII said, “It was a nice session today. I learnt that you can not only just see and make paintings but also understand the objectives and elements of the photographs.”
The second session of the Lalit Pathshala is due to take place on Thursday April 27, 2023
A visit to the Museum
The most exciting part of the session was probably saved for the last – a visit to the Victoria Memorial Hall to see the paintings that were interpreted a while ago- in person. The students were awestruck to see the actual size of the paintings and how detailed they were in reality because of which it took them three to six years to be completed. The session gave the students a new perspective to interpret artworks that they have been seeing or hearing about for a long time. Rudra Das, a class V student from South Point School mentioned, “I loved today’s session and my biggest takeaway is how to read drawings. I will now try to read drawings whenever I see them. I have come many times before to the Victoria Memorial hall and have seen these paintings too. Today, it felt nice to be able to read them as well.”
The second session of the Lalit Pathshala is due to take place on Thursday April 27, 2023. Interested participants can register for it by emailing at email@example.com