The Victoria Memorial Hall is proud to present this major exhibition of paintings of the great master Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), the foundational figure of the Bengal school of Art, and widely hailed as the 'Father of Modern Indian Art'. Curated by Professor Ratan Parimoo, the Director of Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum of Indology and N. C. Mehta Gallery, Ahmedabad, and a leading expert of Tagore paintings, this exhibition - put together painstakingly from the combined collections of the Victoria Memorial Hall and Rabindra Bharati society - includes representative samples from Abanindranath's entire oeuvre, showcasing not only iconic works like Bharatmata and The Passing of Shah Jahan, but also works from his celebrated series of Krishna Lila, the Mangal Kavyas, The Arabian Nights, and his playful takes on Masks. Many of the works included in this exhibition will be on view to the public for the first time.

Early works from the collection of Victoria Memorial Hall
ABANINDRANATH TAGORE (7 August 1871 - 5 December 1951) The nephew of Rabindranath Tagore and the younger brother of the celebrated artist Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore was the principal artist and creator of the 'Indian Society of Oriental Art' and the first major exponent of swadeshi values in Indian art. He was the foundational and most critically important figure of the influential Bengal school of art, which led to the development of modernity in Indian painting. The orientation in the artistic outlook of Abanindranath created a new awakening in India and brought about a revival of the Indian Art which for centuries lay decadent and hidden from the public view. He sought to modernize Mughal and Rajput styles in order to counter the influence of Western models of art, as taught in Art Schools under the British Raj and developed an Indian style of painting, later known as Bengal school of art. such was the success of Tagore's work that it was eventually accepted and promoted as a national Indian style within British colonial art institutions. He was also a much-loved author in Bengali, particularly for children.

a still life with a divan and a smoking hookah in pen and ink sketch, and a woman with a broom in pencil and wash inverted on the upper part.

Three different studies for putting vermillion over the head of a Bengali woman. Probably inspired by the tradition and culture in the home at his early age.

Early studies for boats on the Ganges and a ruined house with trees in the upper portion.

An early sketch of a Bungalow from a distance.

Early Water colour sketch of a woman with a bunch of flowers probably for offering.

A Pen & Ink sketch of a middle class Bengali.

Krishna lila series from Rabindra Bharati society collection
The important masterpiece in Indian art with a similarity of elements with Mughal miniature.The arrangement of the buildings, the indefinite slope of floor in connection to equal arrangement of railings in the front and the low grassland on the back and various locations of interest influenced from traditional miniature painters whereas the exterior corner and the arrangement of objects with the joining of spaces are illuminated in western method.

This painting introduce a new epoch in the modern Indian painting. Besides incompatible use of light and space the massiveness it retains in its full form. This is neither a true European miniature nor an Indian ornamental painting.

Regarding composition Abanindranath was influenced from Rajput paintings and the calligraphic inscriptions within borders from Rajput paintings.

Here the image is small and occupy only the upper half and the lower half has lines from Vaishnav text in a deceptive Persian calligraphic script. This feature can be observed again in his Krishna- Mangal and Kabi-Kankan Chandi series.

The theme came from vaishnava literature and the images are painted in a group of various techniques, heavily influenced from western methods of painting. He rediscovered the Indian method of painting in true nationalist soul.

The techniques of traditional Indian miniatures like multiple borders, calligraphic texts, application of gold led Abanindranath to innovate a new idiom in his paintings.

Taj series

This painting depicts the final moments of Shah Jahan, a tempestuous young soldier become the emperor of Delhi, and nothing is wanting to the glory of his reign. An episode from his pathetic life in Agra fort, the bed of the dying man with the shoes and royal helmet on the side of the carpet. Jahanara weeps at her father’s feet with no royal service. An eerie silence prevails the whole scenario with the sound of gentle overlapping of water from the river below. The tranquil setting creates a pleasing arrangement among the dying emperor and his daughter.
The most unusual part of the painting on the wooden plaque in oil is the inlay work.The flat surfaces and smooth gradations of tone, the water and the climate are often exotic.
Later this was published as a litho print at Indian press, Allahabad in 1910. It was shown in Delhi Durbar exhibition of 1902-03.

One of the first purely Indian idea and form, the spirit of motherland, who gives faith and learning. This is one of the first wash painting. The young and full-bodied, four armed ascetic figure holding sheaf, cloth, palm leaf manuscript, and prayer lotus in her hands, was read as a nationalist mother-goddess granting the blessings of food, clothing, learning and spiritual strength on her children. It formed a image of swadeshi movement.
Due to the popularity this was printed in Lithographic process by the Indian press, Allahabad in 1910.

An interesting portraiture in profile of the turbaned young Coomaraswamy with his sharp-nose with sharp looks.

Open air play series

The great God, destroyer of Kama, with ashes spread out of the body here and there, coils of hair and snakes with a stream of light comes forth from the third eye of Mahadev from a flash light hidden on his hair. He is flat, fleshy and of slump posture unable to save the lover from the arrows of Kama, are some of the humoristic characters of the then Bengali plays in Calcutta.

Another from 'open air play' series where the hero’s hand thrown back in a courageous effort to push his chest further than his unbeatable stomach is the most toughest part.

Playmate series

The texture has gain through the character of still life in a frame image is another from playmate series, with a symbolist approach.

A lifeless gesture, inconvenient motions with alluring tenderness and modest, full-grown figure is observed.

A poignant and sensible portrait of Rabindranath Tagore.

Bird Series
Falguni series

This is from the 'Falguni' series comprising a vast arena and a luminous use of wash.

This is from 'Phalguni' series, based on the performance of the play. This is a double portrait in which the real and fiction grow together.

Parrot's training series

This is based on Rabindranath Tagore’s Parrot’s training, a satire on modern education system in 1918

This caricature is based on the modern education system in 1918.

Darjeeling series
A pleasing landscape with a far-sighted top portion in Darjeeling to view the sunrise and sunset.

An eerie impression prevails in the railway line running over the unknown Darjeeling hill, which is also a remarkable example of subtle wash.

A group of trees in the countryside give over the narrowly provincial and presenting the everlasting beauty on nature’s topography.

Shahzadpur series
From the Bengal countryside which is made on the basis of impressions, divulge his well-defined personal style. This was first worked in wash and after getting the right mood, the intricate details were carefully rendered from transparent strokes to translucent touches to achieve the zestful atmosphere.

The blend of reality and fanciful reflection that pass into the landscape. The curious arrival of the traveller does not disturb the peace of the place, including the distant figures.

Mask series
Arabian Nights series
Krishnamangal series

In this composition Abanindranath stresses fully on forms, where the sensations come forward.

Kabikankan chandi series

A place of gradual decline observed in a building with a street lamp and the dark sharp-edges of demolished structures forming a glimmering light.

Credits: Story

The exhibition was curated by the eminent art historian Professor Ratan Parimoo, Director of the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum in Ahmedabad.

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