Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Painter (12 December 2011 – 4 March 2012) at the Victoria and Albert Museum marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Tagore (1861-1941), poet and painter.
The V&A has a display of around 50 of his paintings from the period 1928 to 1939, some of which have never before been displayed outside India.
Tagore was a 'renaissance man' of modern India, best known as a poet. In 1913 he was the first non- European writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Highly prolific, Tagore was also a composer and wrote the national anthems for both India and the part of Bengal that later became Bangladesh. He also won renown as an educator, social reformer, playwright, philosopher and painter.
Tagore grew up in Kolkata in an intellectual and artistic family. He took up painting relatively late in his career, in his 60s, and produced over 2000 works. Tagore had no formal artistic training, beginning instead by turning the revision marks and crossed-out words on his manuscripts into distorted human and animal shapes. As with his poetry and music, rhythm was central to Tagore's paintings. He developed a very expressive and individual style that was immune to the impact of other art movements predominant at the time, but which later served as a major source of inspiration for many modern Indian artists.The V&A display will feature a range of paintings that reveal characteristics of Tagore's painting style and subjects. All of the works are on loan from the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, or the Visva-Bharati University of India, the university founded by Tagore.
Tagore's first paintings are highly imaginative works, usually focusing on animals or imaginary creatures, which are imbued with vitality and humour. Human figures are depicted either as individuals with expressive gestures or in groups in theatrical settings.
In portraits produced during the 1930s, he renders the human face in a way reminiscent of a mask, turning expression into characters. Landscape subjects represent the smallest output among Tagore's works, and this display will include four of the finest of this group.
The display is curated by Professor Raman Siva Kumar, a specialist in contemporary Indian art and professor in the History of Art at the Visva-Bharati University, and organised in collaboration with the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Lunchtime Lecture: Rabindranath Tagore - An Artist Activist. Wednesday 25 January, 13.00-13.45. Satish Kumar, Artistic Director of the Tagore Festival at Dartington and Editor of Resurgence magazine, will explore the life and work of Rabindranath Tagore.Tagore Family Day. 29 January 2012, 10.30-16.30. A special day of free family events including workshops in portrait painting, henna designs, song and dance workshops and storytelling. Supported by the Nehru Centre.Evening Lecture: Rabindranath Tagore's Avant-Garde Paintings c1930-1941. Friday 3 February 2012, 19.00. Professor Partha Mitter will talk about Tagore's radical non-representational and expressionist approach to painting.
Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Painter, Gallery 38A at the V&A. 12 December 2011 to 4 March 2012. Free admission.