Ramknikar Baij was one of the most outstanding sculptors in modern Indian art. He came from a rural background to study art under Nandalal Bose at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan. Ramkinkar was discovered to have an innate genius for form and for experimenting with visual language. A wonderful portraitist, Ramkinkar did not paint or sculpt portraits as commissions, but because he was attracted to something in their inner self. Similarly, his formal experiments were quite radical just as his use of new material quite daring and challenging.
It is difficult to single out any one work from the very large collection of distinguished paintings and sculptures in NGMA’s possession. Even so the ‘Portrait of Rabindranath Tagore’ may be considered a superb portrait sculpture. It was cast in cement from life in 1940 when Rabindranath Tagore was still alive. The bust portrays the poet, not as a heroic figure, but as a stooping old man with a sad brooding face. The surface of the work has been finished with fragmented, angular planes as if the sculptor has slashed away excess material thus creating an exciting finish.
The poignancy of the likeness is particularly worth noting considering the context of the portrait. It was done a year before Rabindranath’s death at a time when World War II was raging and the poet was particularly distressed by the scale of the global conflict.A bronze casting of this portrait bust was installed on the shores of lake Balaton in Hungary.