Rabindranath Tagore – the Accidental Painter

The Nobel prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore,is the father figure of Bengal culture, timeless

global phenomena as poet and author. But did you know Tagore was also an accidental painter? Rabindranath Tagore’s artistic adventure began with doodles that turned crossed-out words

and lines into images that assumed expressive and sometimes grotesque forms. They were unplanned and shaped by accidents and intuitive decisions but often seem to carry memories of ‘primitive’ art objects which he would have probably seen in books and museums. They made their way into his early paintings. In this article, India’s famous contemporary artist, Shantala Palat shares her insight on the paintings of Rabindranath Tagore. To celebrate the 157th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) in 2018, his paintings were exhibited in Egypt. The exhibition was titled ‘Rabindranath Tagore: Rhythm In Colors’ and was inaugurated by India’s ambassador to Egypt. Tagore began painting much later in his life when he was into his 60s. He made more than 3,000 paintings and drawings in the last 17 years of his life. He was the first Indian artist to exhibit his works across Europe, Russia, and the United States in 1930. His painting style was individualistic, characterised by simple bold forms and rhythmic quality, and later served to inspire many modern Indian artists. Tagore’s initial paintings are highly imaginative works, revolving around animals or imaginary creatures, which are infused with vitality and humor. Human figures are shown either as individuals with expressive gestures or in groups in theatrical settings. Landscape subjects are the least output among Tagore’s works. The finest Tagore paintings consist of the following: Animals/Composites Many of Tagore’s paintings represent animals, but they are never of the real ones we know of. Most often, they represent what he has described as ‘a probable animal that had

unaccountably missed its chance of existence’ or ‘a bird that only can soar in our dreams’. This led him to the creation of an antediluvian menagerie. Guided by the same spirit of inventiveness, he also took to cross - projecting the movement of a living animal on to an imagined body, or a human gesture onto an animal body and vice versa. This exchange between the familiar and the unknown, the inhabitation of one in the other has led him to designs that are as expressive as they are inventive. Faces/Characters