Poet, Playwright, Composer, Educator and humanist Rabindranath Tagore had an extraordinary life and his story is a truly remarkable one. Apart from these titles, there is one more thing we can refer to him as — Artist. Rabindranath Tagore started his creative expression through paint and brush, ink and pen. He called painting his infatuation. Tagore believed, in art, man reveals himself and not his objects. Art cannot be confined to age limits and Tagore certainly did not do that, he started his work in art when he was 63 and began to paint independent pictures 4 years later.
In the next 14 years, he painted 2500 pictures and helped in transforming the Indian art scene.
His paintings replaced skill with imagination. He taught India how to be innovative and creative.
His love for art started with doodles. Each doodle had a different rhythm and a unique calligraphic charm. They were unplanned and shaped by accident and intuition. He called the doodles he made on manuscripts as “unconscious training in drawing”. As a writer, he moved from idea to form but in art, he moved from form to idea. He believed that images came to him and that he didn’t seek them. To dwell deeper into Tagore’s world of art, a deeper understanding of his subjects connects us to his style and his perspective. Tagore had two very prominent subjects.
Firstly, he enjoyed nature and its beautiful creatures. He captured elaborate moments like the flight of a bird but also elementary moments like a bird perched on a tree. He did not find it daunting to even come up with a non-existent mythical animal. His imagination stretched onto the confined space of the canvas and created images that had a beautiful sense of originality. He never titled his paintings. His famous paintings have birds in them. A group of different species of birds, from what looks like woodpeckers to chickens, they are painted on with light shades of brown onto a darker shade of brown which almost turns black due to layering. Another famous painting with a bird has the image of a bird that looks like a woodpecker carved onto the bark of a tree. He focused on creating the perfect textures as we observe in this painting. The shades of brown create the look of a rough bark texture. Some places have a touch of brick red to bring dimension. Another important piece is the bird he drew with geometrical shapes, it gives a visual of the imaginative nature of Tagore’s paintings.
Tagore painted many portraits as well. His self-portrait has strokes of black ink forming a perfect outline of his face. The other portraits were of women. He mostly used darker shades to paint them. The elegant features he decided would remain the same for the other portraits of women were the veils the women wore and their prominent facial features like long noses and almond-shaped eyes. Another section of paintings were called Head Study and have similar features of dark shades used on yellowish backgrounds. The best of his works are united by a mysterious immediacy of impact that enchants and then haunts the viewer.
As a child, he looked out the window and amongst the chaos, he found peace, companionship and freedom. His landscape paintings veered towards abstraction in their figuration. These paintings crystallize the mythical search for the indomitable spirit of nature. His favorite theme was always the gentle descent of dusk. A popular trend in his paintings is the figures trend. Some of his paintings have a particular number of figures standing. There are feverish strokes of crayons and haunting shadows. These are drawn on his old manuscripts, one can see the writing even through the dark strokes.
Rabindranath Tagore certainly did great things for Indian art and expanded horizons of imagination for everyone with an idea and a paintbrush. According to him, art is the response of man’s creative soul to the call of the real. He once said “Art awakens a sense of real by establishing an intimate relationship between our inner being and the universe at large, bringing us a consciousness of deep joy”.
By Manasi Telang