Art News & Views

Asia Society Museum Presents Exhibition of Rabindranath Tagore's Paintings and Drawings


New York. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is lauded around the world as a poet and writer, yet few outside India know that he was also a highly regarded visual artist. Marking the 150th anniversary of the year of Tagore's birth, Asia Society Museum, New York presented an exhibition comprising more than 60 works on paper, drawn from three collections in India. Many of the works have never been shown in the United States. The exhibition started from 9th September to 31st December, 2011 and is being curated by Professor R. Sivakumar of Visva Bharati University. It is co-organized by the National Gallery of Modern Art, Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, edited by Professor Sivakumar and essays by leading scholars on Tagore's writing, philosophy and artistic practice.

The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections. A section titled The Beginning looks at the origins and development of his drawing and painting. Beyond the Pages explores his landscape paintings. Tagore's landscapes were less a depiction of actual scenery and more a focus on rhythm and the universal spirit of life that he felt permeated all of nature. Many of his works depict acrobatic figures that sometimes morph into various forms found in nature. Discovery of Rhythm considers how his creative work in other fields, particularly music and dance, enabled Tagore to project movement and gestures into pattern, forms and fields of color in his drawings and paintings.

The Faces of the World section explores Tagore's representation of the human face, the most frequently recurring form in his painting. Some may resemble Peruvian or Indonesian masks that he saw during his travels but most are recognizable as universal types or bhab (a character, spirit, or quality in Bengali). They may be viewed as an extension of Tagore's own emphasis on commonality and coexistence, rather than divisions based on caste, culture and country.

The exhibition also included programmes like Tahmima Anam's discussion The Good Muslim, the second novel in her planned “Bengal Trilogy,” with Samina Quraeshi, on September 13th. The Inaugural lecture was by Dr. Amartya Sen, Harvard University, on the revival of the ancient Buddhist University Nalanda.

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