08 March, 2021

Poet, Transfigured

A new Tagore meets the world: non-verbal, and full of querulous lines

Poet, Transfigured

“I like his drawings better than his poetry even,” Amrita Sher-Gil is said to have exclaimed, intently studying the paintings around her at a debut exhibition in Paris in 1930. As the poetry she talks about was canonical—it earned India (and Asia) its first Nobel—it offers a benchmark to judge the art works that were, at the time, little more than tentative experiments.

The object of her appreciation was Rabindranath Tagore: a man of letters first, whose art existed, for the layman, only as a footnote to an overwhelming oeuvre of prose, drama, music and poetry. That ‘footnote’ is, in reality, a surprising corpus: over 2,000 doodles, sketches and paintings. Though it has taken 70 years to mount this massive canvas—to mark Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary—it’s been worth the wait. The paintings are now being photographed with special cameras and published in four volumes put together by R. Siva Kumar, art history professor, Vishwa Bharati, as the Rabindra-Chitravali. The...

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