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Paintings of Abanindranath Tagore
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Paintings of Abanindranath Tagore
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About the Book
Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) is a singular figure in modern Indian art. Having arrived on the Indian art scene with the first wave of nationalism, he was seen as a father figure of nationalist art and modernism. Along with E B Havell, Coomaraswamy, Sister Nivedita and other nationalists, he brought an attitudinal change in the Indian response to traditional art. But his true contribution went beyond these. Trained under European artists initially, realism remained the underpinning of his work. But as a modernist at heart who was guided more by his sensibility than his training, he transformed the post-Renaissance academic realism into which he was trained with his series of contacts with oriental art into something more supple and responsive to the imaginative flights of his mind.

A post-Romantic in his sensibilities, he let his individualism triumph over his nationalism. Although he aligned with the nationalists in the early years of his career he transcended it very soon to develop something more akin to Baudelairian aesthetics of modernism with a subjective response to the world rather than an unmediated representation of things. His most impressive work, the Arabian Nights series painted in 1930, can be described as a look at his immediate world through the eyes of a Baudelarian flaneur, with the stories of the Arabian Nights serving as a pre-text.

Equally original as a writer, Abanindranath is a phenomenon whose import has not been fully grasped. Much of this has been due to the unfamiliarity with his work in the absence of easily accessible public collections and publications. The present book brings together a large body of his work for the first time in an attempt to fulfill a glaring lacuna in our picture of this early master of modern Indian art.

About the Author
R Siva Kumar (b. 1956), educated in Kerala and Santiniketan, Professor of Art History at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, has curated several important exhibitions and written extensively on Modern Indian Art. His publications include The Santiniketan Murals (1995), Santiniketan: The Making of Contextual Modernism (1997), K G Subramanyan: A Retrospective (2003), A Ramachandran: A Retrospective (2004), K S Radhakrishnan (2004), Benodebehari Mukherjee: A Centenary Retrospective (2006) co-edited with Gulammohammed Sheikh, K G Subramanyan: The Painted Platters (2007), K G Subramanyan: Drawings (2010); and the four-volume Rabindra Chitravali (2011), the most comprehensive documentation of any modern Indian artist to date, in its collection of more than 2000 images of Tagore's paintings, drawings and doodles, most of them reproduced for the first time ever. In 2011 he also curated The Last Harvest, an exhibition of paintings by Rabindranath Tagore, travelling internationally, and edited the publication accompanying it.

Foreword
Early in 1971, I was in Santiniketan, visiting Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati. The teachers of Kala Bhavana were discussing at that time the details of a seminar they were planning to organize later in the year to celebrate the birth centenary of Abanindranath Tagore. And they approached me with a request to contribute a paper to this seminar. I readily accepted but wanted to see as large a body of Abanindranath's works as I could before I made the effort. In spite of having studied in Kala Bhavana about twenty-five years earlier, when Abanindranath himself was the Acharya (or Chancellor) of Visva-Bharati, I had had no occasion to see a large body of his work. My exposure was confined to the few works in the Kala Bhavana collection and the mixed selection of works reproduced in the Abanindranath Number of the Visva-Bharati Quarterly published in 1942 to commemorate his seventieth birth anniversary; which every student of that time eagerly hurried to possess. The number carried many tributes and reminiscences. But the reproductions covered only a small section of his works and their quality was far from satisfactory. All the same, it carried a concise but highly useful catalogue of his total oeuvre drawn up by Benodebehari Mukhopadhyay; but many of the works mentioned in his listing were not readily accessible to the general public.

However, I came to know from friends around that the Rabindra Bharati Society held a large body of these works and these included over a hundred of the highly celebrated ones. The Upacharya (or Vice Chancellor) of Visva-Bharati, Professor Pratulchandra Gupta, who was also a member of the Rabindra Bharati Society, offered to arrange for me a private viewing of these in Calcutta on my way back to Baroda. And on his advice, the Secretary of the Society, Sri Ananda Mohan Mukherjee generously made the arrangement.

It was an amazing experience. This collection was a treasure-trove; it held together a large body of Abanindranath's paintings including those highly accomplished works he did in 1930, now widely known as the Arabian Nights series. These works showed Abanindranath at his resplendent best. After romancing around with various modes of pictorial statement, he seemed to have found in these a method that suited his genius that chose to interweave factual and fictional elements to create a new reality, where he undressed known myths and legends with great wit and humour and endowed the new reality with a mythical aura. These works were undoubtedly the high water mark of his artistic achievement. And in the previous nine years, from 1921 to 1929, he had also been spelling out his most considered views on various aspects of art practice, art experience and creativity in his celebrated Vageshwari Lectures at the Calcutta University explaining in his inimitable language the diverse patterns of interaction between surviving culture and contemporaneity, between direct vision and fantasy, in a modern artist's work.

Much as this experience exhilarated me I felt, at the same time, that these works should be brought to the notice of a larger public as soon as possible through a suitably illustrated publication. And since these works on paper have a tendency to deteriorate rapidly through time this appeared urgent. So, soon after I moved to Santiniketan from Baroda in 1980, the efforts to persuade the Society and certain established publishers to undertake this work started. It has taken more than a quarter of a century for these to fructify. And the credit for this goes to Professor R Siva Kumar, who has made an in-depth study of Abanindranath's works and their antecedents and to Shri Priyabrata Deb (of Pratikshan) who had the vision and the enterprise to undertake the work.

Introduction
Abanindranath Tagore is an artist who is more talked about than seen. In this he is like a classic that is little read but is a part of our cultural unconscious. His name along with that of Raja Ravi Varma figures prominently in discussions about the beginnings of modern art in India. It appears to be a matter of some academic interest to be able to decide to whom the palm for being the originator of the modern phase in our visual culture should go. Thus they are held in contrast and comparison to each other. Ravi Varma was the first Indian artist of significance who made a decisive break with tradition, drew upon Western art, and worked on a pan-Indian scale. However, the Western art he was drawn to was not modern but of the academic neo-classical kind that was popular in the academies and salons representing conservative European taste, and, further, he approached art like a professional who worked to meet standards than to set new ones. On the other hand Abanindranath despite his training under European painters began as a nationalist. E B Havell linked him to the revival of Indian painting, 1 and since then he has been generally seen as a revivalist. His work, it is believed, owes certain aspects of its themes, style and technique to older Indian and oriental traditions. But working neither for patrons nor for the market he was an individualist in the modern sense. And, as we proceed, I hope that the modernism of his thought and work would become clear. But to gain a perspective on him it would be useful to begin with a larger picture of the Indian art scene in the nineteenth century rather than merely pit him against Ravi Varma as is our present wont.

In the nineteenth century even though the Indian art scene was not as creative and vibrant as it was only two centuries ago, when Europeans were beginning to arrive in India in considerable numbers, it was multifarious and many leveled. One of its more pronounced features was the marked impact of European, mainly British, taste and patronage on its genres and styles even when it was not done for European collectors or markets. Art done by and for the British in India was itself of many kinds.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages










Paintings of Abanindranath Tagore

Item Code:
NAX484
Cover:
HARDCOVER
Edition:
2013
Publisher:
ISBN:
9788189323493
Language:
English
Size:
10.50 X 9.00 inch
Pages:
392 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 2.02 Kg
Price:
$100.00   Shipping Free - 4 to 6 days
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About the Book
Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) is a singular figure in modern Indian art. Having arrived on the Indian art scene with the first wave of nationalism, he was seen as a father figure of nationalist art and modernism. Along with E B Havell, Coomaraswamy, Sister Nivedita and other nationalists, he brought an attitudinal change in the Indian response to traditional art. But his true contribution went beyond these. Trained under European artists initially, realism remained the underpinning of his work. But as a modernist at heart who was guided more by his sensibility than his training, he transformed the post-Renaissance academic realism into which he was trained with his series of contacts with oriental art into something more supple and responsive to the imaginative flights of his mind.

A post-Romantic in his sensibilities, he let his individualism triumph over his nationalism. Although he aligned with the nationalists in the early years of his career he transcended it very soon to develop something more akin to Baudelairian aesthetics of modernism with a subjective response to the world rather than an unmediated representation of things. His most impressive work, the Arabian Nights series painted in 1930, can be described as a look at his immediate world through the eyes of a Baudelarian flaneur, with the stories of the Arabian Nights serving as a pre-text.

Equally original as a writer, Abanindranath is a phenomenon whose import has not been fully grasped. Much of this has been due to the unfamiliarity with his work in the absence of easily accessible public collections and publications. The present book brings together a large body of his work for the first time in an attempt to fulfill a glaring lacuna in our picture of this early master of modern Indian art.

About the Author
R Siva Kumar (b. 1956), educated in Kerala and Santiniketan, Professor of Art History at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, has curated several important exhibitions and written extensively on Modern Indian Art. His publications include The Santiniketan Murals (1995), Santiniketan: The Making of Contextual Modernism (1997), K G Subramanyan: A Retrospective (2003), A Ramachandran: A Retrospective (2004), K S Radhakrishnan (2004), Benodebehari Mukherjee: A Centenary Retrospective (2006) co-edited with Gulammohammed Sheikh, K G Subramanyan: The Painted Platters (2007), K G Subramanyan: Drawings (2010); and the four-volume Rabindra Chitravali (2011), the most comprehensive documentation of any modern Indian artist to date, in its collection of more than 2000 images of Tagore's paintings, drawings and doodles, most of them reproduced for the first time ever. In 2011 he also curated The Last Harvest, an exhibition of paintings by Rabindranath Tagore, travelling internationally, and edited the publication accompanying it.

Foreword
Early in 1971, I was in Santiniketan, visiting Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati. The teachers of Kala Bhavana were discussing at that time the details of a seminar they were planning to organize later in the year to celebrate the birth centenary of Abanindranath Tagore. And they approached me with a request to contribute a paper to this seminar. I readily accepted but wanted to see as large a body of Abanindranath's works as I could before I made the effort. In spite of having studied in Kala Bhavana about twenty-five years earlier, when Abanindranath himself was the Acharya (or Chancellor) of Visva-Bharati, I had had no occasion to see a large body of his work. My exposure was confined to the few works in the Kala Bhavana collection and the mixed selection of works reproduced in the Abanindranath Number of the Visva-Bharati Quarterly published in 1942 to commemorate his seventieth birth anniversary; which every student of that time eagerly hurried to possess. The number carried many tributes and reminiscences. But the reproductions covered only a small section of his works and their quality was far from satisfactory. All the same, it carried a concise but highly useful catalogue of his total oeuvre drawn up by Benodebehari Mukhopadhyay; but many of the works mentioned in his listing were not readily accessible to the general public.

However, I came to know from friends around that the Rabindra Bharati Society held a large body of these works and these included over a hundred of the highly celebrated ones. The Upacharya (or Vice Chancellor) of Visva-Bharati, Professor Pratulchandra Gupta, who was also a member of the Rabindra Bharati Society, offered to arrange for me a private viewing of these in Calcutta on my way back to Baroda. And on his advice, the Secretary of the Society, Sri Ananda Mohan Mukherjee generously made the arrangement.

It was an amazing experience. This collection was a treasure-trove; it held together a large body of Abanindranath's paintings including those highly accomplished works he did in 1930, now widely known as the Arabian Nights series. These works showed Abanindranath at his resplendent best. After romancing around with various modes of pictorial statement, he seemed to have found in these a method that suited his genius that chose to interweave factual and fictional elements to create a new reality, where he undressed known myths and legends with great wit and humour and endowed the new reality with a mythical aura. These works were undoubtedly the high water mark of his artistic achievement. And in the previous nine years, from 1921 to 1929, he had also been spelling out his most considered views on various aspects of art practice, art experience and creativity in his celebrated Vageshwari Lectures at the Calcutta University explaining in his inimitable language the diverse patterns of interaction between surviving culture and contemporaneity, between direct vision and fantasy, in a modern artist's work.

Much as this experience exhilarated me I felt, at the same time, that these works should be brought to the notice of a larger public as soon as possible through a suitably illustrated publication. And since these works on paper have a tendency to deteriorate rapidly through time this appeared urgent. So, soon after I moved to Santiniketan from Baroda in 1980, the efforts to persuade the Society and certain established publishers to undertake this work started. It has taken more than a quarter of a century for these to fructify. And the credit for this goes to Professor R Siva Kumar, who has made an in-depth study of Abanindranath's works and their antecedents and to Shri Priyabrata Deb (of Pratikshan) who had the vision and the enterprise to undertake the work.

Introduction
Abanindranath Tagore is an artist who is more talked about than seen. In this he is like a classic that is little read but is a part of our cultural unconscious. His name along with that of Raja Ravi Varma figures prominently in discussions about the beginnings of modern art in India. It appears to be a matter of some academic interest to be able to decide to whom the palm for being the originator of the modern phase in our visual culture should go. Thus they are held in contrast and comparison to each other. Ravi Varma was the first Indian artist of significance who made a decisive break with tradition, drew upon Western art, and worked on a pan-Indian scale. However, the Western art he was drawn to was not modern but of the academic neo-classical kind that was popular in the academies and salons representing conservative European taste, and, further, he approached art like a professional who worked to meet standards than to set new ones. On the other hand Abanindranath despite his training under European painters began as a nationalist. E B Havell linked him to the revival of Indian painting, 1 and since then he has been generally seen as a revivalist. His work, it is believed, owes certain aspects of its themes, style and technique to older Indian and oriental traditions. But working neither for patrons nor for the market he was an individualist in the modern sense. And, as we proceed, I hope that the modernism of his thought and work would become clear. But to gain a perspective on him it would be useful to begin with a larger picture of the Indian art scene in the nineteenth century rather than merely pit him against Ravi Varma as is our present wont.

In the nineteenth century even though the Indian art scene was not as creative and vibrant as it was only two centuries ago, when Europeans were beginning to arrive in India in considerable numbers, it was multifarious and many leveled. One of its more pronounced features was the marked impact of European, mainly British, taste and patronage on its genres and styles even when it was not done for European collectors or markets. Art done by and for the British in India was itself of many kinds.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages










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