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 Home > About Thailand > The Arts > Art training in Thailand



In the year 1913 the Thai government opened a School of Arts and Crafts with the principal purpose to train teachers of design and to carry on the teaching of the arts of embossed silverware, niello, lacquer work, and wood carving in the traditional style. Only since a few years ago, particularly after the impulse given to the art teaching by the painter, Mr. Chit Buabusaya, painting and modelling are taught also in that school with proper and definite programmes.

In A.D. 1934 the Fine Arts Department, realising the necessity of a revival of arts in Thailand, opened a School of Fine Arts to train young Thai in painting and sculpture. In 1943, H.E. the Premier, Field Marshal Pibulsonggram raised this school to the rank of University (Faculty of Sculpture and Painting).

The writer was responsible for organising the said School of Fine Arts in the Fine Arts Department and so witnessed the daily artistic progress of those Thai youths that at present are the majority of the Thai artists belonging to the new generation.

By tutoring these youths we tried to avoid any interference with their personal artistic tendency with the result that we succeeded in a variety of expressions corresponding to the natural temperament of each student.

Illustrations of some works of these young artists will clarify the idea about their personal styles.

Fig3. Prasong Pathmanuja. "Wat Phra Keo", 1949
Fig4. Prasong Pathmanuja. "Dancers", 1951 . A peculiar style of the artist retaining the characteristic of the traditional painting.

With figures 3 and 4 we reproduce two paintings made by Prasong Pathmanuja. This artist was born a painter-decorator with a peculiar tendency to modern expressions. Nobody influenced him to do in that style-it was simply due to his natural disposition. Figure 3 is Wat Pra Keo rendered in cubistic style, while figure 4 represents two Thai girl- dancers in modern Thai style.

Fig5. Khien Yimsiri. "Fantastic Trees", 1953. Flowing lines and harmonious volumes are the peculiarities of this Thai sculptor.
Fig6. Sitthidet Sanghiran. "The last Quest", 1950. "...and after where shall I go?, what shall I be..." A realistic style veiled with romantic feeling.
Fig7. Sawang Songmangmee. "Blossoming Flower", 1949. ...for the first time the girl seems to meditate about the complexity of life. A realistic style veiled with romantic feeling.

Another artist "son of our age", is Khien Yimsiri. When this sculptor is free from routine official works, his fantasy wonders in a world of flowing lines and harmonious plastic volumes. Nai Khien Yimsiri is an admirer of the charming small statuettes made in glazed clay of the Sukhothai period (13th-15th century A.D.) from which he gets inspiration for his modern creations. Figure 5.

Figs. 6 and 7 illustrate two statues of two sculptors whose temperament and style are quite opposite to those of the two artists mentioned above. Figure 6, modelled by Sitthidet Sanghiran, represents the "Last Quest" . An old man reaching the extreme limit of his life gropes in the void of darkness to find the answer to his last query "and after where shall I go?. What shall I be?". The other statue illustrated with fig. 7 "The Blossoming Flower" was made by Sawang Songmangmee, portraying a girl who seems to meditate for the first time in her life about the complexity of the world.

Fig8. Paitun Muangsomboon "Colt", (1950) This artist was born a sculptor of animals.
Fig9. Paitun Muangsomboon "Calf", (1951)

Again, another artist gifted by nature with peculiarity of expression is Paitun Muangsomboon. He is born a sculptor of animals, indeed since a mere boy his cherished subjects were animals. Paitun Muangsomboon is able to model human figure fairly well, but it is when with modelling-stand and clay in the zoological garden of Bangkok that his artistic qualities are at the best. Figs. 8 and 9.

Fig10. Apai Saratanti. "Life of the Thai", 1953 .
Fig11. Sanit Distaphundhu. "Boat Racing", 1952. A Modern composition having the characteristics of design and style of old traditional art.

The style of this decorative panel retains the spirit of old mural painting. Fig. 10 is a decorative panel representing "Life of the Thai" made by Apai Saratanti, a student of the third year of the University of Fine Arts. Being the work of a very young fellow, one may find matter for criticism, but what we like to remark is the fact that the style of this young artist is a blending of the old and modern characteristics. Indeed we would like to see this combination of styles more and more developed for decorative purposes.

Fig. 11 " Boat Racing" by Sanit Distpundhu, is an attempt to modernize old art. It is evident that conventional forms and ideas limit the individual power of expression. Nevertheless, the attempt is worthy of remark so much that we hope other Thai artists may try also in this line to see whether it is possible to create something original.

In illustrating works of the Thai artists in different styles we wish to draw the attention of the reader to the fact that what these young artists express, (outside of official works which more or less must be done in a style to meet the general approval), is sincerely done. They are not yet so intellectually complexed to impose a style to themselves, thus any criticism concerning the relationship of their production with foreign production cannot stand an objective analysis. Of course, as we have already emphasized, these young Thai, like the European, American, Japanese etc., live amidst a universal culture and so if we note in the works of art connection of expression between east and west, this is not due to reciprocal imitation, it is due to a new afflux of intellectual and artistic ideas which serve to renew reciprocally exhausted forms and conceptions of the old western and eastern arts.

If we consider that it is less than fifteen years since this generation of artists has started to produce modern art and consider also the fact that this artistic movement is localized to the capital of Thailand, we think that everyone interested in the culture of this country may look forward to the future with assurance that it will not be long before modern art will be more intensified, particularly through the moral and the financial support of the Thai government and the Thai upper class.

Without such a support young artists do some work only in their start with enthusiasm but are obliged after-wards to accept any position or do any commercial work for their livelihood.

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