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Rabindranath Tagore: A Soulful Painter

Rabindranath Tagore once said
“The world speaks to me in colours, my soul answers in music.” However, these were just words for me until I saw his paintings in real.

Yesterday, when I visited National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and looked or rather ogled at Tagore’s drawings/doodles/paintings, I realized that he can weave magic in Lines and Curves as easily as he does in Verse and Prose.

His take on World in Colors, hypnotized me. It was as if he slowly brought the entire universe to a single point and then put forth his stirrings in soulful music, enticing me to dance in tandem with his rhythm.

1. Head Study

The first painting that caught my attention is one of his most famous Head Study, as shown above.

As I looked from a distance, I saw an old fashioned house with a sloping roof, standing precariously on a wooden shaft. But, as imagination took over, the human shape became hard to ignore. It appeared as if the entire world squeezed onto the canvas, slowly divulging hidden layers in this painting.

The entrance to the house suddenly acquired the shape of a human head, a side profile to be exact, with a pointed nose. The stairs of the house looked like huge books placed on one another. As my eyes adjusted to light and I got more involved, the books also receded into background, as neatly stacked shelves of a library took over. But in the next level, the books completely disappeared, as an empty room with huge windows became evident. The triangular rooftop suddenly metamorphosed into a cap, sealing the brain.

Yes, what I was looking at now, was the inner working of human brain, where Knowledge is primarily acquired in physical form, facts are chewed upon, logical analysis is derived, results are neatly stacked into grey cells and gist is assimilated in consciousness for future reference. One of the most exhaustive representation of ‘how we think’ was lying bare in front of my eyes. And I was wondering at the sheer marvel of the artist, who made it possible with a few strokes of ink on paper!

Amazed! So am I. And I am still looking at this pic, I found on internet, trying to look a little deeper, and then a little more deep to think and imagine like Tagore did, when he created it….

2. Vase

The next painting that caught my attention was a Vase, again made with Ink on Paper. A very basic medium, with excellent results.

As I leaned closer, the half Vase turned out to be an amalgamation of various patterns and designs, each unique in itself, meriting a little more attention as a viewer. This kind of art is possible, only when one is lost in thoughts and painting it from the deeper recesses of consciousness.

The hand or head plays no part here. It can only be the result of purest form of rhythmic thoughts, running at top speed, caught in the web and released on paper in spurts of ecstasy.

Something is written in Bangla on the top portion of the Vase, though I am not able to make out, what it means, but it is adding visual appeal to the painting. Another wonderful display of poetic artistry. Merits many more dekko….

3. Two Figures

The third painting is titled Two Figures. And sure enough, there are two figures visible here.

But both of them are as far apart as possible. The male figure, standing in the upper half of the painting, appears to be an old harried man, a little lost in darkness, intently staring at the girl below. She, in complete contrast to the male, seems jubilant and full of life. In one of her hands, she is holding a Mashaal, a symbol of vitality and hope.

Tagore has successfully created two diagonal halves in this painting. It feels as if pessimism and optimism are juxtaposed here.

Then, I leaned a little closer and to my utter surprise, made out a pair of eyes in the flame of that Mashaal. Those eyes changed the meaning of this painting for me. Suddenly I made out a third figure, in the painting titled Two Figures. It looked like a fetus, a future of mankind, giving hope to the old man that the journey isn’t over, the World will survive and there would be another era of Joy and Tranquility.

I strongly feel that the old man here, is none other than Tagore himself, trying to look beyond crisis of his life, and creating a better world with his sheer imagination….

I can go on and on about the paintings I saw during this short visit. The truth is, each of his paintings impressed me to some degree. Be it the Fantastic figures, beasts, women, birds or simple landscapes, he has a knack of creating depth and layers in his paintings. The longer you look at and the more involved you get, the more complex it becomes.

He is a master creator. Today, I have become his true fan, I can feel him in my heart, words are needed no more…

3 Comments

  1. GST Courses Delhi says:

    It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

  2. I would like your comment on a painting by tagore called “Bird (fantastic)”. You can view the painting at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rabindranath_Tagore_Bird_Fantastic.jpg

    I can understand that it is a bird, Position of eye is very clear. Where is the beak? Is it pointing left and up? Or bottom and down? I guess it is left and up. So it is a bird which is looking up towards the left. Am I right?
    Is it trying to take a flight? But it looks strangely flopped against the ground and tree (or whatever else it is leaning on).
    On the other hand if the beak is pointing right and down, the picture turns a very comical one. As if a pot bellied bird is reclining in a comfortable chair. I doubt, this interpretation.

    Looking forward to your interpretation. As an aside, I enjoy visiting NGMA Bangalore very much. I am looking forward to a Delhi trip, just to go to the main NGMA of the country.

  3. Anupama Sarkar says:

    Hi Baransam1, this sketch did catch my attention in NGMA Delhi as well. Yes, you are right in interpreting it as a bird, the title itself says so. If we assume that the beak is pointed up and towards left and the brown portion is a tree, then an image of a bird almost dead or on the verge of collapse, can easily be seen. Perhaps Tagore tried to draw a tired motionless being, who despite having the ability to fly, has no desire to do so. A dejected soul it can be.

    But then why restrict ourselves to a bird, may be it is hapless old man, trying to find solace with one hand firmly planted onto the solid tree, while the lower beak(?) is simply the shadow of the lifted hand.

    Another interesting take would be to consider it as a naughty Pret (Spirit/Ghoul) enjoying the shade of a tree, yawning leisurely with a large ogre like mouth. I remember seeing this devilish one eyed figure in yet another sketch by Tagore.

    There may be many interpretation of this art or for that matter, any painting.. because Tagore wasn’t a traditional painter or sketch artist. He let his feelings flow on the canvas. He used colors as vividly and creatively as Words. And thus our imagination can fly high and even interpret this bird as the mythical Jatayu, injured and battered by Ravana, gasping for last few breaths.

    But then to tell you the truth, Tagore I feel was a nature lover, and I can tell from my own experience that nature presents many lively and appealing scenes when watched closely. Perhaps he noticed a scratched, worn out bark and tried to recreate it in this sketch. And then in the typical creative style, simply added an eye on the top, to make it mysterious 🙂

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