Art News & Views

The Last Harvest: Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore


Berlin. In the West, Rabindranath Tagore is best known as a multi-faceted writer of novels, short stories, poetry and plays, composer of songs, philosopher, teacher and social innovator. Throughout his extensive travels he met and exchanged ideas with a variety of eminent representatives of different cultures becoming the first Asian poet to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Tagore's painting's, however, are little known  a strange turn of events as he was the only Indian artist of his time who was extensively exhibited in the West and can be counted among those who paved the way for Indian Modernism. When it came to painting, his creative impulse was almost fully nurtured by alien traditions and their visual languages.

The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of Tagore's birth, and the Indian Ministry of Culture wishes to honour Tagore with an international travelling exhibition containing a large selection of his works. In collaboration with the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, the Rabindra Bhavana and the Kala Bhavana Museum at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, the Asian Art Museum in Berlin was the first venue to present Tagore's paintings. From 2nd September to 30th October 2011, 208 works by Tagore was on show, touring in three circuits to various capitals, each of them had their own historical link with Rabindranath Tagore. Germany and Berlin had numerous encounters with the poet, mostly of literary and philosophic nature. Out of the 98 works presented by the Asian Art Museum in the exhibition, at least 13 have been previously exhibited on two occasions in Berlin. In July 1930, Tagore had his first German solo show at Galerie Ferdinand Möller. Five paintings, which Tagore donated to the National Gallery, were classified as Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) by the Nazi regime in 1937 and were removed from the collection. In 1981, the former GDR arranged another comprehensive solo show at the National Gallery in Berlin. Initially, the German public praised Tagore's paintings for their affinity with the Expressionism of the 1930s, at the same time, his paintings reveal distinctive Indian characteristics particularly the painter's individual sense and sensibility for forms and colours.

To acquaint a broader public with his fine expressive style, the Asian Art Museum, in cooperation with the Indian Embassy, organised an accompanying program of lectures, readings, music performances, theatre, films and guided tours. A comprehensive catalogue, focussed on the Tagore's life and achievements, which provided further insights into his artistic philosophy, and will reproduce all 208 of the travelling works.

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