Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was a painter, writer and poet molded into one. Born in Calcutta, his talent as a poet was evident even when he was hardly eight years old. He published his first book of poems at the age of 17. He wrote poems, plays, short stories and novels based on the traditional society of Bengal. The national anthem, Jana Gana Mana, that inspires national integration, was written in 1911. In 1913, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, for his collection of poems, Gitanjali, written in Bengali in 1910, and later published in English in 1912.
Rabindranath transformed his lack of formal training of art into an advantage and opened new horizons in the use of line and color. He was as prolific in his paintings and sketches as he was in his writing, producing over 2,500 works within a decade. Over 1,500 of them are preserved in Viswa-Bharati, Santiniketan.
It is evident that in his search of newer form of expression in line and color Rabindranath was trying to express something different from what he did in his poetry and songs. If he sought peace and enlightenment in his songs, he seems to explore darkness and mystery in his drawings. Dark creatures and haunting landscapes of another, primordial and marvelous world, which constituted Tagore's works, puzzled and delighted the world. With the passage of time, critics and art lovers have been discovering in these outpourings from the depths of his fanciful mind a more modern and disquieting Tagore than seen anywhere else.
Tagore himself, in his article 'My Pictures', explains his paintings as follows, "The world of sound is a tiny bubble in the silence of the infinite. The Universe has its only language of gesture; it talks in the voice of pictures and dance. Every object in this world proclaims in the dumb signal of lines and colors, the fact that it is not a mere logical abstraction or a mere thing of use, but it is unique in itself, it carries the miracle of its existence. In a picture the artist creates the language of undoubted reality, and we are satisfied that we see. It may not be the representation of a beautiful woman but that of a commonplace donkey or of something that has no external credential of truth in nature but only in its own inner artistic significance.”
"People often ask me about the meaning of my pictures. I remain silent even as my pictures are. It is for them to express and not to explain. They have nothing ulterior behind their own appearance for the thoughts to explore and words to describe, and that appearance carries its ultimate worth. Then they remain; otherwise they are rejected and forgotten even though they may have some scientific truth or ethical justification. Love is kindred to art, it is inexplicable. Duty can be measured by the degree of its benefit, utility by the profit and power it may bring, but art by nothing but itself. There are other factors of life, which are visitors that come and go. Art is the guest that comes and remains. The dithers may be important, but Art is inevitable."
In spring 1930, when on a tour to France, Tagore was advised, by some art critics of local newspapers who saw his paintings, to hold an exhibition in Paris. He held the first public and international exhibition of his paintings in Paris in May 1930, at the Gallerie Pigalle. The exhibition was later held in different countries in Europe in the same year. But India and his hometown Calcutta had the honor of hosting it only in 1931, a year later of Paris exhibition.
The exhibition remained open to public from the 5th to the 19th May, 1930. Duchess Anna de Noailles, in her introductory remarks in the catalogue of the exhibition of Tagore's paintings "To me it is like climbing a staircase of dreamland". After the conclusion of Paris exhibition, exhibitions were held in England, Denmark, Sweden, Rome, Germany and Russia in Europe. Later exhibitions were also held in USA and Canada. The exhibition of paintings drew an unprecedented overwhelming admiration in Germany. It was shown in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart and other places in Germany. The then German President and ministers and also Albert Einstein, the great scientist, attended Tagore's exhibition.
Tagore died in Calcutta on August 7, 1941.
Born 1887, West Bengal
Diploma in Fine Arts, Government School of Arts and Craft (1903-08)
Born in 1887 in a small village in Bankura district, West Bengal, Jamini Roy joined the Government School of Art, Kolkata in 1903. He began his career by painting in the Post-Impressionist genre of landscapes and portraits, very much in keeping with his training in a British academic system. Yet, by 1925, Roy had begun experimenting along the lines of popular bazaar paintings sold outside the Kalighat temple in Kolkata. By the early 1930s, Roy made a complete switch to indigenous materials to paint on woven mats, cloth and wood coated with lime. The inspiration for painting on woven mats was the textures he found in Byzantine art, which he had seen in color photographs. It occurred to him that painting on a woven mat might make for an interesting mosaic-like surface.
The Santhals, a tribal people who live in the rural districts of Bengal, were an important subject for Roy. A series of works done a decade before World War II is a very good example of how he captured the qualities that are a part of native folk painting and recombined them with those of his own. He fused the minimal brush strokes of the Kalighat style with elements of tribal art from Bengal (like that of the terracotta work found in the Bishnupur temple in Bengal, where terracotta was often composed into decorative units - some elaborate in design - over portals and across exterior walls of the temples).
Roy's rejection of the then modern style of painting and his foray into the realm of Bengali folk paintings marked a new beginning in the history of Indian modern art. The mother and child, Radha, and animals were painted in simple two-dimensional forms, with flat color application and an emphasis on the lines. The main subjects were often enclosed within decorative borders with motifs in the background. The figure of the Christ was also a subject that Roy often painted.
Roy held several one-man exhibitions and numerous group shows. His works can be found in several private and public collections, institutions and museums all over the world, including the Lalit Kala Academy in Delhi and museums in Germany and the United States of America. He was honored with the Padma Bhushan in 1955. Jamini Roy died in 1972 in Kolkata, where he had lived all his life.
Selected Posthumous Exhibitions
2010 Manifestations IV, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
Celebration 2010, Annual Exhibition, Kumar Art Gallery, New Delhi
2009 Indian Art After Independence: Selected Works from the Collections of Virginia & Ravi Akhoury and Shelley & Donald Rubin, Emily Lowe Gallery, Hempstead
In Search of the Vernacular, Aicon Gallery, New York
Kalpana: Figurative Art in India, presented by The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at Aicon Gallery, London; The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)
Moderns and More, Aicon Gallery, Palo Alto
2008 Multiple Modernities: India, 1905-2005, Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA
Post Independence Masters, Aicon Gallery, New York
2005 Manifestations III – 100 Artists of Contemporary Art, organized by Delhi Art Gallery at Nehru Centre, Mumbai, Lalit Kala Akademi, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
2004 Manifestations II – 100 Artists of Contemporary Art, organized by Delhi Art Gallery at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
2003 Manifestations I – Indian Art in the 20th Century, organized by Delhi Art Gallery at World Trade Centre, Mumbai and Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
Exhibition of Works of Jamini Roy, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
Poetry and Patriotic Fervor, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
Indian Art Pre-Independence, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
2000 Face Off 1900-1980s. An Exhibition of Indian Old Masters and Moderns, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
2000 Art of Bengal: Past and Present 1850-2000, Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata
1997 Art of Bengal 1850-1950: Calcutta Metropolitan Festival of Art, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata
1998 Temperas and Sketches, Art Bazar, Kolkata
1998 The Simplicity of a Pionee’, The Window, Mumbai
1995 From Seeds to Flowers – Jamini Roy and His Roots, Romain Rolland Galerie, Alliance Francaise, New Delhi
1990 Centenary Exhibition, Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai
1987 Centenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi
1987 Centenary Exhibition, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata
Select Group Exhibitions
1998 The Window, Mumbai
1987 Centenary Exhibtion, NGMA
1938 British Indian Street, Calcutta
1937 Samavaya Mansions, Calcutta
Awards & Honors
1967 Awarded honorary D. Litt., Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata
1956 Elected Fellow, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1955 Awarded Padma Bhushan, Government of India
1935 Awarded Viceroys Gold Medal for ‘Mother Helping the Child to Cross the Pool.’