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Sudeshna Majumdar : Paintings of Tagore

Bird (pen and coloured ink). Courtesy -

A Journey Within: Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is primarily known to the world as a humanistic thinker and a poet, but painting also plays an inspirational role in the latter half of his career. Different forms in nature intrigued him and he interpreted the role of colour in painting as an intermediary between the world of forms and the world of ideas. This essay is an attempt to explore how Tagore’s interpretation of forms and colours were instrumental in the expression of his emotions, a tendency that links him with the twentieth century European Expressionists. It is also interesting to find how the coexistence of the personae of the poet and the artist within Rabindranath had increased the element of spontaneity in his artistic output, a feature that was also evident in the Romantic poet-engraver William Blake and the Pre-Raphaelite poet-artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. By setting these parallels, this discussion will attempt to show how, like these two poet-artists, Rabindranath’s paintings too transcend into a world of artistic excellence through their emotional content and expressionistic approach. In the course of this discussion we shall explore whether Tagore had pursued painting toward the end of his life as an articulation of personal pleasure or if he had adopted this art as a broader means of communication and thereby wanted to correspond through his ever-expanding self with the disturbed multitude of a war-ravaged world.

Rabindranath, with a philosophical approach to creativity, locates the growth of human artistic sensibility in the world of ‘surplus’. According to him all human qualities dwell in the surpassing strength of the ‘surplus’. In the essay “What is Art?” he explains that Man’s emotional energy has a large resource that remains as surplus even after he spends these emotions on self-preservation. (Personality, 11) Hence there is a world of ‘surplus’ in human existence that exists beyond the world of necessity: “This surplus seeks its outlet in the creation of Art, for man’s civilization is built upon his surplus.” (Personality, 11) In the same essay he argues that the world in our perception is not a complete world, whereas when we perceive it through our emotions, it becomes a complete world. It is a world explained in terms of our sentiments, because Man not only gathers like animals, but also creates. And he observes that the principal creative force is an emotional force: The world that we feel with our emotions is the world science can’t approach, where Art prevails. (Personality, 4)

As a child he was always attracted to various forms scattered in nature, the play of sun and shade on the leaves, on water and he records his feelings in his memoir My Reminiscences. The painter Devi Prasad also records how Rabindranath, as a teenager had made some sketches that were a part of the family prank. This piece of information explains that for Rabindranath painting did not happen all at once, rather, he seemed to take interest in recognizing the forms and articulating them in painting from an early age. He began painting in 1928 and cultivated his passion in the 1930s when he was recovering from an attack of erysipelas in Santiniketan. Prithwish Neogy in the essay “Drawings and Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore” describes the phenomenon as “an eruptive rebellion, contradistinguished from all the profound and serene values carefully tended” by the poet through his literary activities (Neogy, 198). In the year 1930, when he was touring Europe and America, exhibitions of his paintings were held in London, Birmingham, Dresden, Munich, Copenhagen, Moscow, Boston and New York that invited critical responses from the Western cultural circuit, who sought symbolic meanings in them.

The development of Rabindranath’s painting is closely associated with the correction of his manuscripts. While writing, correcting and constantly modifying his poems in Purobi and later, in Kheya by covering some words with ink and by adding some, he developed an interest in doodling and scribbling from 1924 onwards. He linked these covered areas to give a pattern to the doodling and thus made way for irregular designs, free-flowing ribbons, grotesque faces and birds. The doodles resembled the irregularity of consciousness and poetic imagination, revealing certain underlying forms when they were interlaced with words into a ‘complete and rhythmical configuration’ (Neogy, 199). These dark creatures look exotic and resemble the pre-historic cave paintings. It is this interaction between poetry and painting at the moment of their genesis that tempts the viewer to draw a parallel between Rabindranath, William Blake and D. G. Rossetti. None of these poet-artists were adherent of formal academic training or technical accuracy, but all of them were emotionally inspired and this spontaneity of expression helped them to form their trademark styles.

William Blake (1757-1827) was a visionary, a poet and an artist who strove for social and political freedom for all. He debunked all neoclassical conventions of harmony and strict structural proportion with his emotional exuberance and radical perspectives in art and literature. The nature of his works is imaginative and visionary. In 1788 Blake began experimenting with relief etching and began illustrating his own poems with it. ‘Illuminated printing’, he called them and produced most of his poems following this technique. He worked directly on a copper plate with pens, brushes and an acid-resistant medium, wrote the text in reverse so that it would print in normal order and also drew illustrations, then etched the plate in acid and the acid ate away the untreated portions of the copper plate, leaving the designs in relief. The pages printed from such plates were coloured by hand with watercolour and were stitched together. The process was laborious and time consuming and Blake could produce limited copies of his books of poetry.

Blake envisioned human history as a complex mythology, where Urizen stands for oppressive and authoritative rationality, Los symbolizes love and creative imagination and Thel, ‘wish’ or ‘will’. His paintings worked as components of this large composite of idea, myth, image and poetry, which help us to establish a homogenous link between Blake the poet and Blake the artist, the homogeneity that is evident also in the two selves of Rossetti but that is strangely lacking in Rabindranath, What brings Tagore at par with Blake is the aspect of doodling that was partly present in the latter’s ‘illuminated printing’ too. Blake’s poems are complete only when they are read along with their illustrations and are part of an integral and mutually enlightening combination of words and designs. If we consider the title page of Songs of Experience (1794) we will find, letters are interlaced with ornate tendrils that link themselves with the recumbent figures of Adam and Eve below and the flying bird above and thus creating a complex design, almost Rococo in spirit. Incidentally, the Rococo art also indulged in artistic freedom and in the spontaneity of the unbridled unconscious. Songs of Innocence and The Book of Thel have similarly ornate calligraphic title pages. His famous poem ‘The Tyger’ bears the figure of tiger at the bottom of the poem. In the right the huge tree trunk extends some thin branches that enter the body of the poem, separate the stanzas in the process, emphasize the title by encircling it and merge into the line of grass below. But if we look at the first or second drafts of Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ or some of its trial stanzas we find, he simply penned through those previous lines instead of doodling through them like Rabindranath. Hence for Blake it was a planned interaction between poems and their illustrations, which are not scribbling themselves. Still they come quite close to many of Rabindranath’s manuscripts where the designs form as if a visual interlude to the songs ‘bipode more roksha koro’, ‘jani jani kon adikal hote’ or ‘bidhir bandhon kaatbe tumi’ or to the scenes from Red Oleanders (1925). The correction of manuscripts also brings us to another problem that poetry, despite claiming to be an involuntary ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’, needs revisions, metrical reshaping and modification. On the other hand, these revisions lead to further improvisations, which ultimately point at the ever-evolving creative mind of the poet or the artist.

The equation between D. G. Rossetti and Rabindranath is more regarding spontaneity than theme and style. Rossetti (1828-1882), the Italian-born poet-painter, rejected the insipid method of academic teaching. This non-conformist and spontaneous image of the artist was the chief driving force behind the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 whose watchword was spontaneity. Rossetti’s paintings progressed in consonance with his poems as he wrote some sonnets to explain his paintings and executed some major paintings as companion pieces to his poems. For example, his famous poem ‘The Blessed Damozel’ (1846) portrays a world warm with sensuality that is conveyed through the voluptuous beauty of the woman in the illustration, whose languorous stare suggests that she is breathless from the ethereal sight. His paintings breathe in sensuousness as his ‘Proserpine’ looks up with her melancholy eyes, holding the pomegranate against her parted ruby lips. The call of the mysterious, the enchanting and the mystical always enthralled the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Rossetti. It is reflected in his mystically inspired paintings Beata Beatrix (1864-70), and Astarte Syriaca (1877). The fragile beauty that enchants and saddens, the loveliness that is transient, the twilight zone between life and death, between union and separation, attracted him. It is not only the aspect of spontaneity that is common between Rossetti and Tagore, but also the exploration of mystical beauty and the all-pervading melancholia that link these two figures across time and space. The abstract addressee of many of Tagore’s songs, the elusive, unattainable feminine is projected in his somber female-portraits, most of who are clad in red or brown veils, or have hair hanging loose, surrounding the face that has an intense gaze. They come very close in mood with the withdrawn stares of Rossetti’s ‘Proserpine’ and ‘Pandora’, whose haunting beauties are accentuated by the sensuous perspective of flower and foliage. But the flat monochromatic treatment of background without any architectural superfluity and a white colour scheme of Rossetti’s earlier painting such as The Annunciation (1850) express the painter’s greater emphasis on the spirit of the subject matter than on artistic draughtsmanship and this is where suggestiveness helps the painting to transcend its stylistic details as it happens in the paintings of Rabindranath.

The co-existence of a poet and a painter within the same personality demands a look into their respective representational strategies. Here we shall introduce Lessing’s observation regarding the semiotic differences between poetry and painting as discussed in his comparative study of these two sister arts in Laocoon (1766). The basic differentiation that he makes between them is in terms of time and space. He suggests that poetry can progress through time by accommodating the past, the present and the future within a single narration, whereas painting works only in space by portraying different levels of perspective within a single canvas. To accommodate different time-schemes within painting the painter needs a series of paintings, an example of that are the cave paintings of Ajanta in India. However Lessing also points out that poetry and painting can interchange roles as poetry paints through figurative languages and painting becomes eloquent through lines and colours. He describes painting as a ‘dumb poetry’ and poetry, a ‘vocal painting’. (Lessing. 59) This observation is applicable to the works of Blake, Rossetti and Rabindranath as all of them dabbled in both painting and poetry. Still Lessing argues that painting and poetry are different media of representation and hence their representational strategies vary. The figures of speech enable a poet to describe a series of emotions in a single person within a few moments. But an artist requires a single culminating mood as the representative zenith of the whole gamut of emotions because he could not portray them in a single face. From this premise we can draw our own conclusion that Rabindranath’s poetry is more discursive and eloquent than his paintings that primarily deal with singular moods and work though suggestions. Since both of these arts appeal to our cognitive and imaginative faculties, it is possible for a poet to paint and vice-versa. Lessing also thinks that both the poet and the artist have this power to convey the element of suggestiveness. (Lessing, 112)

Rabindranath was interested in discovering various forms in nature. His close associate Rani Chanda in her memoir Gurudev recollects how he, in his sickbed, discovered different forms hiding in the alignment of the branches in a faraway tree as he looked out. Even when he became too ill to get up and draw, he still observed the silhouettes of the trees against the horizon and exclaimed how he could detect different shapes in their branches. This keenness of observation he considered his newly acquired skill. (Chanda, 127) He did not like the usual process of repeating the same pattern as in a traditional design. Instead, he preferred the free flow of lines that could make an irregular pattern. Rani Chanda recounts how Rabindranath, to substantiate his own point, once poured a drop of oil on a bowl of water and demonstrated how the oil spread on the surface of the water, forming an irregular pattern of wavy, continuous lines. He also drew some motifs from the patterns formed by the drop of oil (Chanda, 126). In the essay Chhobir Anga (CA)(c.1915) Rabindranath comments on different formal features of Indian aesthetics as it has been discussed in a Sanskrit scripture. He refers to the six conditions that Indian aesthetics adhered to while executing a painting. These are - structural diversity, measurement, expression and beauty, the art of representation and the application of pigments. What he argues in the essay is that, art should be created out of certain surface conditions and certain core-conditions i.e, it should have an outer ‘structure’ (roopa) and an inner ‘idea’ (bhava). All these conditions should be balanced with ‘measurement’ (pramanani) from the outside and with ‘beauty’ (lavanya) from inside and then only the ‘representation’ (sadrishya) of the object can match the concept of the same object within the artist’s mind. This representation has to be combined with suggestiveness and ‘colouring’ (varnikabhanga) and only then it emerges as the ideal expression of its creator’s imagination (CA, 774). He also says that line and colour are two formative agents of every visible object in this world and thus emphasizes the importance of form in art:

In this world all forms become visible to us by colour and line coming together. Between these two, it is the line that draws a definition around the form. The direction of this definition is the most important part of a painting There is abstraction in music and in smell, but there cannot be abstraction in painting. (CA, 772)

In this context he introduces the play of binaries to describe the play of lines on blank space and interprets it as the play of the finite and the infinite. From this philosophical angle, he interprets the colours as intermediaries between light and its absence. He says “Lines are definite and colours are there to bridge the definite with the indefinite.’ (CA, 773) In a letter to Rani Mahalanabis Rabindranath explained how the hint of line gradually becomes a form whose creation is a source of endless wonder. (Pathe O Pather Prante, 827) Devi Prasad also thinks that Rabindranath was primarily interested in form than in colours. His paintings show a form-based ‘rhythmic linearity’. (Prasad, 75) But whenever he used colours, he seemed to carry on the same dynamism in that medium.

Rabindranath’s use of colour is muted and he mostly used earth-hues like brown, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, chrome yellow, Indian red, vermilion, orange, black and indigo. In an anecdote Rani Chanda recalls, when Rabindranath went to the hills, he drew some pictures by rubbing the petals of hill-flowers on paper. Though later most of these colours faded away and only the hues of yellow and green survived, the pure joy that filled him while painting with floral pigments was really touching (Chanda, 124). Through her anecdotes she has sketched Tagore the artist as an impulsive and imaginative child. It seemed to her that the act of painting served as a breathing space for the poet between his tireless hours of continuous writing. She observed how after long hours of writing at the end of the day, he loved to paint in the fading light. His mind raced so fast as he painted, that he hardly cared in which colour he is dipping his brush. She recalls it was all the more difficult for him to draw with coloured pencils. When he was working on the tree-trunk, his mind paced up to its top and the tip of the pencil was often broken as it failed to cope with that speed. Rabindranath was too spontaneous to wait for the wet paint on paper to dry. Even if he painted in watercolour, he pressed his palms on the painting so that its warmth helped the paint to dry. He preferred the sprit-based Pelican coloured-inks as it dried fast when applied on paper and gave luminous, transparent hues. He had plenty of those little coloured bottles, as Chanda remembers, sometimes he used opaque colours to highlight certain areas or to create textures on paper. (Chanda, 124) These incidents reveal an impulsive artist whose imaginative wanderings are characteristics of a poet’s mind. It is very significant that Ananda Coomaraswamy, in his 1930 catalogue introduction for Rabindranath’s Boston exhibition, had noticed the “evidence of eternal youth persistent in a hoary and venerable personage.” (Coomaraswamy quoted by D&R, 357)

Rabindranath in Chhobir Anga observes that the structural diversity and measurement are formal aspects of a painting that, along with the colours, appeal to the viewer’s eye, whereas suggestiveness/idea and beauty are emotive aspects of it that appeal to the viewer’s mind. The emotive inner world of painting is made of bhava and lavanya. He explains that bhava is a complex whole of multiple meanings that includes ‘feelings’, ‘idea’, ‘characteristics’ and ‘suggestion’ and together they form the inner essence of a painting (CA, 770). The message of the painting is conveyed through its essence or bhava. Both the outer and the inner aspects are combined to make a painting an ample representation. Rabindranath speaks about two forms of representation, one is formative, the other is that of expression or rasa. What he suggests is:

The moment one comes to the point of ideas and expression beyond the talk of lines and measurement, at once it is understood that the image that lies within the mind of the artist is primarily not that of lines, but of expressions. It has a certain inexpressible quality that is lacking in external nature. (CA, 771)

Devi Prasad records that Rabindranath painted most of his pictures in single sittings. As a poet-artist he followed poetic impulses as he explains it in the essay “The Meaning of Art” (1921): “This is art, the truth of which is not in substance or logic but in expression” (Tagore in Prasad, 95). Bhava or expression is the reality within and when it corresponds with the reality outside, the artistic representation becomes complete, as in the essay “The Artist” Rabindranath observes: “in the pictorial, plastic and literary arts, the object and our feelings with regard to it are closely associated, like the rose and its perfumes.” (“The Artist”, 88) Lessing, after observing the whole tradition of classical paintings, comments that as a visual art painting banks on certain sets of conventions to depict different characters and moods. They are generally accepted rules that, when applied on a work of art, make it comprehensible to the viewer and thereby establish a communication between the audience and the work of art and through it, between the audience and the artist (Lessing, 85). According to the Structuralist interpretation of language as a system of signs, literature also becomes comprehensible to the reader as it follows certain semiotic rules. In that sense Rabindranath’s paintings do not always conform to the recognized semiotics of his contemporary Bengal School of painting that was founded by his nephew Abanindranath Tagore and his students. Rather we may argue that the semiotics that Rabindranath had followed regarding his paintings had a similarity with the avant-garde artistic trends of Europe in the twentieth century. Incidentally, in Germany in 1930 Rabindranath commented: “My poetry is for my countrymen, my paintings are my gifts to the West.” (Rabindranath quoted by D&R, 355) In “Art and Tradition” he thinks: “the genesis of all art traditions must have been in some gestures in the modes and mediums of expression that spontaneously came to men of genius…” (Rabindranath in Prasad, 110) This emphasis on spontaneous expression was the guiding force of his paintings that linked him with the twentieth century German Expressionists.

In expressionistic painting a particular emotion is evoked through the theme, colouring and style of the painting and thereby it communicates the emotions of the artist to the viewer and in that sense it is analogous to literature as the latter also deals with the expression of emotions and its communication. Robin Blake defines Expressionism as the “art that primarily communicates the feelings or inner visions of the artist.” (Blake, 254) Tagore, being a litterateur, was acquainted with such communications and in spite of not belonging to the German school of Expressionism, was able to communicate with his viewers by means of expression. His lines surge and swell, merge into the wavy strokes of colour and thus exert dynamism that resembles the surge of emotions as well. These rhythmic lines against a flat monochromatic background, reminds us of the Scream (1893) by Edward Munch. Munch (1863-1944), a Norwegian painter, was the precursor of Expressionism. The undulated lines of his paintings make the whole scene vibrate with the ‘scream’ of that gaping and ghastly white face that presses its own palms against its ears, as if being thrilled by its own scream. It is as if the entire emotional turbulence of the picture is momentarily suspended in the pallour of the face that is crooked with the magnitude of the expression. The painting seems to contain a message of impending doom and destruction. The artist himself wrote about his experience:

One evening I was walking along a path, the city on one side, the fjord below. I felt tired and ill … the sun was setting and the clouds turning blood-red. I sensed a scream passing through Nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked.” (Munch, 2352)

In Rabindranath’s paintings expression complements the energetic drawings and vibrant earth-colours. Rani Chanda quoted Abanindranath, who compared the paintings of his Rabikaka with the erratic intensity of a volcanic eruption (Chanda, 126). Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson (D&R) in their study Rabindranath Tagore: A Myriad-Minded Man observes: “Dark faces silhouetted against burning orange and yellow skies had been a favourite image of Tagore the painter.” (D&R, 355) Once Rabindranath asked the artist Nandalal Bose to make some sketches of human limbs for him to follow. He even followed them, but Mrs. Chanda observes that all those delicate drawings disappeared before the erratic movements of his stormy brushstrokes while its outcome, the picture, was often serene in mood (Chanda, 126-27) She also recalls how the poet often talked to his pictures, his melancholy women, as he painted, offering them colours as if to cheer them up, that was a part of his unique method of empathizing with his subject that was vital to the expressionistic style and also important for any creative act. In the painting Mother and Child (Rabindra Bhavana collection) the mother’s bent posture over the child expresses maternal love and protection and the flowing lines exhale tenderness. Their shadows looming at the back and the colour showing through intricate strokes of pen enhance the compactness and the sense of intimacy of the picture. Another painting shows a lady silhouetted against a bright yellow backdrop with her swirling dress and flying hair that generate the dance-like motion of her gait. The drama is increased when he deals with two figures, men and women united in embrace or a woman holding high a lamp in darkness towards a mysterious male figure that echoes a scene from his play The King of the Dark Chamber. Nandalal Bose pointed out the virility of expression in Rabindranath’s painting and how Tagore himself wrote, that his pictures are there to express and not to explain, (Nandalal quoted by Prasad, 73) Prithwish Neogy also notices the emotive edge of Rabindranath’s later paintings, and describes them as ‘the total fantasy of the emotional world’ (Neogy, 202).

The faces painted by Rabindranath express different moods: mysterious, brooding, dramatic, and romantic, of wonderment, fear and melancholia. Some of the faces look like masks of different expressions that lead us to the question whether as a sensitive poet (who was a dramatist as well), Rabindranath in his paintings was dealing with the metaphor of the ‘mask’ or the ‘persona’, the myriad expressions that we usually put on to the course of our interaction with each other in everyday life. Most of the women painted by Rabindranath have their hands and body covered under folds of flowing veils and saris that are symptomatic of the captive and closeted existence of contemporary Bengali women. Their sad eyes and the dark shadows looming large behind them express the pathos of their inability to exert themselves. These women remind the viewer of the monsoon clouds hanging low with their burden of unshed showers. In another painting, a woman’s profile is painted in yellow that is bent over as if to rest on her hand in a brooding position. Her long hair, hanging loose, forms the shadowy backdrop. Melancholia thus becomes the prevalent mood in Tagore’s human faces and this brings them close to the faces drawn by the Post-impressionist Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). His somber muses, with their elongated necks, long, chiseled features, long nose, painted as in a profile, deeply set eyebrows free-flowing tender bodies, strongly resemble the melancholy women of Rabindranath with their high cheekbones, angular mouths and intense gaze. Even Modigliani’s use of colour is similar as both of them applied, bluish gray, sea-green, coal black, shades of brown, yellow, ochre and red. In the work of both artists the lack of background details accentuates the subject in the foreground from which expressions ooze out. These faces look beyond the viewer’s gaze as if seeking something else in the horizon. These withdrawn, introspective men and women of Rabindranath and Modigliani wrap themselves in a veil of mystery, spreading the all-pervading mood of melancholy in the paintings. It is basically the application of expressions that kindles the viewer’s imagination and leads him into speculation by connecting these artists, the professional and the amateur, across space and time, across cultures.

The cult of Rabindranath Tagore that was constructed in the West through the poems of Songs Offering (the English version of Gitanjali) was that of a saint and a poet-prophet and was complemented by the portrait of Rabindranath, painted by William Rothenstein as an image of serenity and submission. This cult of him as an oriental mystic is conveyed primarily through his spiritual poems of Gitanjali. If we compare it with his self-portrait of 1935, the dark, brooding face against a backdrop of chrome yellow, resembling the evening sky, we shall notice that the face looks sombre with a sad gaze as if reflecting a disturbed mind. The sombreness is increased by the dark halo of hair and facial hairs surrounding the face. This portrait is dated the first of Ashada, 1342 and is painted at Chandannagar. In India this date is the literary connotative of the pain of separation of lovers as depicted by Kalidasa in Meghdutam. The connotation of the date thus corresponds with the prevailing melancholy mood of the self-portrait, whereas Chandannagar too, plays a role in invoking the memory of his beloved dead sister-in-law Kadambari Devi, who once dwelt there. This self-portrait along with his other self-portraits done at different stages, pose a sharp contrast to his saintly serene image drawn by Rothenstein. These two images suggest a difference between the ways in which Rabindranath was visualized by the world and the way he visualized himself. These self-portraits raise the question if they were a projection of his unconscious mind, his hidden impulses of fear and desire that were constantly mitigated in his poems by a balanced, rational, spiritual and humanistic persona. This leads to the speculation that, for Rabindranath, painting became a mode of self-projection or a journey-within, a representation of his inner-reality: “Here, one feels, is a man who recognizes the savage in himself and is grappling with it.” (D&R, 356) or as Prithwish Neogy observes: “The drawings and paintings of the poet had richly traced the extraordinary inner journey of a complex individual through the ecstatic affirmation of existence.” (Neogy, 202) But wouldn’t it be too conclusive to interpret Rabindranath’s paintings as mere modes of self-expression or to follow the view of Rani Chanda that painting was a ‘game’ for him? Rather they seem to expose the twilight zone of his consciousness where the self faced a crisis as it failed to cope with the happenings of the outer world. Incidentally, it was around this time that he wrote Se (1937-38), his experimentation in fantasy and nonsense literature, which he himself illustrated in pen and ink. It is not clear whether the grotesque animals and fantasy masks and figures in Se served for him as a momentary escape into an otherwise state of existence away from the crisis of modern civilization in the inter-war phase. However, it is better to leave his works open to interpretation, which perhaps Rabindranath too had intended, as he left all his works untitled and therefore undefined and thereby leaving a scope for free communication between the viewer, the Art and the artist, through the abstract appeal of ‘suggestiveness’ as he expresses in one of the songs in Gitanjali (No. 53):

I dive down into the depth of the ocean of forms,
Hoping to gain the perfect pearl of the formless. (Gitanjali, 111)

It is through suggestiveness that the viewer communicates with these paintings and tries to empathize with the subjects and thereby re-lives the emotions of their creator. Thus for him, the act of viewing also becomes a journey within.

Note: For paintings of Blake, Modigliani, Munch, Rabindranath and Rossetti, see the links below:

Works Cited

Blake, Robin. Essential Modern Art. Bath: Paragon, 2001.
Chanda, Rani. Gurudev. Kolkata: Visva Bharati Granthanvibhaga, 1962.
Dutta, Krishna and Andrew Robinson (D&R). Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad Minde
d Man. London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 1995, rpt. 2009.
Lessing, G. E. Laocoon in German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism: Winkelmann,
Lessing, Hamann, Herder, Schiller, Goethe. Ed. H. B. Nisbet. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. 1985. 57-134.
Munch, Edvard, The Great Artists: Their lives, works and inspiration. Part. 74. London:
Marshall Cavendish Ltd, 1995.
Neogy, Prithwish. “Drawings and Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore” in Rabindranath
Tagore: A Centenary Volume 1861-1961. New Delhi: Sahitya Academy, 1961, rpt.
1992. 198-202.
Prasad, Devi. Rabindranath Tagore: Philosophy of Education and Painting. New Delhi:
NBT India, 2000, rpt. 2007.
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. The Great Artists: Their lives, works and inspiration. Part. 17.
London: Marshall Cavendish Ltd, 1993.
Tagore, Rabindranath. Chhobir Anga (CA) in Rabindra Rachanabali, Vol. 14. Kolkata:
The Govt. of West Bengal, Centenary ed. 1368 (1961). 768-774. (my translation)
Gitanjali: facsimilie of the original manuscript. Kolkata: Sahitya Samsad, 2009.
Pathe O Pather Prante in Rabindra Rachanabali, Vol. 10. Kolkata: The Govt. of
West Bengal, Centenary ed. 1368 (1961). 803-858.
“The Artist” in The Religion of Man. London: Unwin Books, 1931, rpt.1970. 81-
“What is Art?” in Personality. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1970. 3-38.


Focus – "Reading Across Time": Tagore Today

  Amrit Sen : Editorial

Lead Article
  Udaya Narayana Singh : Redrawing the Boundaries

Critical Essays

  Nation, History, Cultural Exchange
    Avijit Banerjee : Tagore’s Visit to China
    Bijoy Mukherjee : Rabindranath and Indian History
    Biswanath Banerjee : Tagore and Acharya PC Ray
    Sagarika Chakraborty : Tagore the Diplomat
    Soumitra Roy : Tagore’s Ghare Baire

  Responses to Caste and Gender
    Dhriti Ray Dalai/ Panchanan Dalai : Tagore’s ‘Chandalika’
    Dipankar Roy : Women in Tagore’s ‘Domestic Novels’
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : “Streer Patra” - A Feminist Text?
    Swati Ganguly : Gender, Sexuality and Conjugality in Samapti

  Translation and Reception
    Anindya Sen : Tagore’s Self-Translations
    Jayati Gupta : Whose Gitanjali is it Anyway?
    Sushobhan Adhikary : Cartoons on Tagore
    Usha Kishore : The Auto-translations of Rabindranath

  Rural Reconstruction and Ecopoetic
    Bipasha Raha : Experiments with Village Welfare
    Debotosh Sinha : Tagore and Rural Reconstruction
    Falguni Piyush Desai : Floriography in Tagore’s Poetry
    Marie Josephine Aruna : ‘Letters’ and Ecopoetics

  Aesthetics, Paintings and Dance Dramas
    Aju Mukhopadhyay : The Poet of Sublime Love
    Raghupathi K V : Aesthetics of Tagore and Sri Aurobindo
    Sudeshna Majumdar : Paintings of Tagore
    Sutapa Chaudhuri : Dance Dramas of Tagore

  Tagore and the Short Story
    Dominic K V : Tagore’s Short Stories
    Mausumi Sen Bhattacharjee : ‘The Hunger of Stones’

  Tagore and Visva-Bharati
    Anindita Chongdar : Anecdotes of Santiniketan
    Debmalya Das : The Visva-Bharati Quarterly
    Subodh Gopal Nandi : The Visva-Bharati Library

Creative Responses

    Sanjukta Dasgupta : Remembering Rabindranath

    Frank Joussen : Tagore and Walt Whitman
    Nuggehalli Pankaja : The Voice of Tagore
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : To Rabindranath
    Shambhobi Ghosh : Yet

  Ahmed A H S : Birthday and other poems
  Anup Maharatna : From ‘The Last Writings’
  Ashoka Sen : Africa
  Barnali Saha : The Vacation (Fiction)
  Naina Dey : Chance Meeting
  Parantap Chakraborty : The Son of Man
  Suranjima Saha : Preamble to a Journey
  Swapna Dutta : The Editor

  Amrit Sen:Behind the Veil & Tagore and Modernity
  Kumaran S : Pathos in the Short Stories of Tagore

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