Victoria Memorial Hall in collaboration with Rabindra Bharati Society, Kolkata presents an exhibition of paintings of Gaganendranth Tagore. These paintings are part of the collections of modern Indian painters received recently as enduring loan. Professor Ratan Parimoo, director of L.D. Museum and N. C. Mehta Gallery, Ahmedabad is an internationally known scholar and author of modern Art. The artist brothers, Gaganendranath (1867-1938) and Abanindranath (1871-1941). The young nephews of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). The two youngsters were always at hand to collaborate with their uncle's creative projects, in particular, music, dance and theatre in their sprawling Jorasanko house in Kolkata. Both had acted in Rabindranath's plays. Interestingly, as Gaganendranath was growing creatively, he developed close affinities with the creatively of the great poet. Gaganendranath visualized befitting illustrations for Rabindranath's Jeevansmriti, My Reminiscences, in 1911. First Phase (up to 1911): Puri landscapes, portraits and other figure sketches, scenes from Calcutta and illustrations for 'My Reminiscences', some of them in Japanese brush technique. Second Phase (1911-1915): Chaitanya series and other related paintings done from imagination including the Pilgrims series, most of which are done in black ink (SUMI-E). Night scenes and paintings on gold paper may also belong to this phase. Third Phase (1915-1921 Bichitra period): most of the caricatures and the Himalayan paintings, Fourth Phase (1921-1925): Cubistic experiments in colour and black ink. Last Phase (1925-1930) Post-cubistic paintings mostly in black and white. Cardinal points in his development are (i) the involvement with Japanese technique, (ii) the confrontation with Cubism and (iii) the highly personal and complex imagery of the late pictures. His work was exhibited in the 22nd exhibition de societe des peintres orientalists francais in 1914 in Paris, London, Belgium and Holland and Athene Gallery in Geneva in 1928.
Another type of landscape found in "Jeevansmriti" is that done with this washes of colour with minimum of tone and hue contrast, the entire looking almost pale grey as in 'The boat Padma'. It is the sheer limitless expanse that is represented within a small frame. This too is oriental but such landscapes could also have been inspired by similar ones of Whistler, who in his turn also derived such effects from a synthesis of Impressionist and Japanese techniques.
The general enthusiasm for Japanese art among the Tagore circle can be gauged by the fact that the Oriental Society had brought together around 1910 a large collection of original examples of Japanese art for an ambitious exhibition. Differentiating them from one another will enable not only to pinpoint them also to observe how simultaneously he also attempted to synthesize them till a stage came around 1914 when he evolved his own approach to the use of SUMI-E.
Gaganbabu's direct acquaintance with Japanese painting may have been through this exhibition and also through the reproductions in the then famous albums of Kokka. the "Jeevansmriti" ink paintings have several types of brushwork. The fact that several types of techniques are used in them suggests that he worked in various manners all at the same time.
His interest was not limited to only the brush technique of Japanese art but also the whole conceptual range of his art. This can be observed by analyzing examples from each of the two types. 'Calcutta Roof Tops' and 'Women at the Banks of Ganges' are impressionist, wheras The Ganges Again (from "Jeevansmriti") has an oriental quality.
His painting of a prominent waterfall is the well-known Pagla-Jhora (the Mad stream) of Darjeeling. It was the backdrop of Rabindranath's play Muktadhara. Initially Himalayan scenes are before about 1920, but the quality of the 'sublime' achieved through the exploitation of scale, and bringing out the celestial grandeur of the sacred mountains with the way of light is handled, ties up with his late post-cubist paintings of 1920s.
The exhibition was curated by the eminent art historian Professor Ratan Parimoo, Director of the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum in Ahmedabad and author of the books 'The Art of Three Tagores' and 'The Pictorial World of Gaganendranath Tagore'.
Images courtesy Rabindra Bharti Society and Victoria Memorial Hall collection.