As mentioned in this issue, the Santiniketan art university founded by Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore integrated foreign influences, in particular influences from East Asia. Santiniketan was among the first to encourage a pan-Asian approach to art and introduce East Asian influences to contemporary Indian painting.1 But Santiniketan's art school was not just a passive consumer of non-Indian influences. It had the international stature and influence to spread its teachings outside India. Key Southeast Asian artists such as Bayi Aung Soe of Burma; and Affandi and Rusli of Indonesia, have all studied in India at Santiniketan.2
Rusli studied in India from 1932 to 1938, where he was advised by his Santiniketan university teachers to seek inspiration in his native Indonesia at the ancient Buddhist site of Borobudur.3 Rusli went on to become a lecturer at the Indonesian Academy of Fine Arts and an award-winning artist.4 Another internationally-renowned Indonesian painter, Affandi, studied at Santiniketan and exhibited in India.5 During his Indian university days, he befriended the talented Burmese painter Bayi Aung Soe, who had been offered a scholarship by the Indian government to study art at Santiniketan in 1951.6
Aung Soe only spent a year at Santiniketan, but the Indian art school's approach of combining one's native traditions with pan-Asian influences apparently had an impact on him. Aung Soe, upon returning to Burma, applied himself to learning about its folk arts and classical art, in addition to studying the Buddhist art of China and Afghanistan.7 In his later career, he evolved a remarkable style that was at once both strikingly original and rooted in traditional iconography. To view his work, see http://bagyiaungsoe.com/.