RABINDRANATH - THE ARTIST*

-Dr. Dilip Malakar

   Tagore was not only a poet of repute but also a painter of distinction. 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 home town Calcutta had the honour of hosting it only in 1931, a year later of Paris exhibition.

    In spring 1930, when Tagore was enjoying the warmth of the French Riveiera, some art critics of local newspapers saw Tagore’s paintings and advised him to hold an exhibition in Paris.

    It is still a matter of controversy as to whether it was Madame Victoria Ocampo of Buenos Aires or Duchess Anna de Noailles who helped Tagore organise the exhibition at the "Gallerie Pigalle". The exhibition remained open to public from the 5th to the 19th May, 1930. Duchess Anna de Noailles made the following introductory remarks in the catalogue of the exhibition of Tagore’s paintings – "To me it is like climbing a staircase of dreamland ……".

    Tagore as a painter was not discovered by the Paris newspapers during his exhibition of paintings. Rabindra Nath Tagore’s appearance as painter in France was not sudden. Long before the Paris exhibition Tagore had long discussions on his art with Romain Rolland in 1926. Nobel laureate Romain Rolland wrote in his book "Inde-journal", 3 July, 1926 – "Other day Tagore was discussing on his application of colour in paintings. He likes very little red colour, the dominance of red colour in Italian village did not attract him. His love goes violet and blue. And he has more liking for green."

    Tagore discussed about art with another Nobel Laureate French poet Saint John Perse. Saint John Perse met Tagore in London in 1913. In the twenties of the 20th century they met on several occasions. Saint John Perse has contributed several articles on his recollection of Tagore during Tagore’s birth centenary celebrations in different French literary reviews.

    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 painting drew overwhelming admirers’ attention 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. The exhibition was a grand success in Germany.

    Tagore’s paintings and sketches fascinated young German students. Among them a student of the art academy of Munich Mr. Oswald Malura, at the age of 20, received a Mond travel scholarship of the academy to study Indian art and philosophy. Mr. Oswald Malura stayed in India for three years (1929-1932) and visited Bombay, Agra, Delhi, Kashmir, Benaras, Himalayas, Santiniketan and Calcutta and ahe met Annie Besant, Mahatma Gandhi and poet Tagore. Mr. Malura was an amateur cinematographer. At Santiniketan he recorded a 12 minute-film on Tagore as a painter and teacher in the open air classes. There are some still photographs that showed how Tagore drew and painted. But it is rare to have a movie film or cinema on Tagore as an artist. Mr. Oswald Malura, the German artist, was in Calcutta in 1986. He presented his short silent film on Tagore as painter to the Visva Bharati University in December, 1986. Mr. Malura said,"my impression was that Tagore was to me like a Godsent man. I liked so much his sketches and colouring that I could not resist myself to photograph it. But alas! it was in black and white. Colour photography was not introduced uptil that time.

    The Tagore paintings were explained and expressed by Tagore himself in his article "My Pictures" 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 his world proclaims in the dumb signal of lines and colours, 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 common place 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 if 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."

    Tagore has been immortalised not only by his poetry but, also by his paintings.

    impression was that Tagore was to me like a Godsent man. I liked so much his sketches and colouring that I could not resist myself to photograph it. But alas! it was in black and white. Colour photography was not introduced uptil that time.

    The Tagore paintings were explained and expressed by Tagore himself in his article "My Pictures" 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 his world proclaims in the dumb signal of lines and colours, 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 common place 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 if 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."

    Tagore has been immortalised not only by his poetry but, also by his paintings.