Tagore converted his writings to paintings:Scholars
"His art emerged from erasures and doodles in the manuscript of his poems, and there is an intimate relationship between the visual shape of his poems on the page and the drawings and paintings that he later came to make," says British researcher Dr William Radice.
In a collection of articles on the Nobel laureate`s paintings published as `The Last Harvest – Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore` recently, leading scholars have come to the conclusion that an overarching principle of rhythm united all of Tagore`s creative outlets.
"His free verse poems with lines of varying lengths spread out across the page – always with a general movement of left to right – have a shape as distinctive as his drawings and paintings," Radice, a London-based expert on Bengali language and literature, writes.
Art historian and curator R Siva Kumar recounts that while switching from writing to giving finality to his doodles, `Gurudev` sometimes erased an entire page of writing and turned it into a page of drawing.
"This freed the image from the text and made it independent, but he did not take to doing in independent paintings until 1928. And when he did, his initial paintings were akin to the doodles," he observes.
A polymath, Tagore reshaped India`s literature and music in the twentieth century. His vast body of diverse creative expression also includes dance, drama and paintings.
"A large part of man can never find its expression in the mere language of words. It must, therefore, seek its expression in other languages – lines and colours, sounds and movements," writes researcher Uma Das Gupta quoting Tagore.
The book by Mapin Publishing, comprising over 200 of Tagore`s unique paintings along with essays by leading scholars from around the world, was released here recently at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.
The publication is supported by the Union Ministry of Culture and the National Gallery of Modern Art.
Tagore, however, wanted his paintings to be unlike his writings, less burdened with meaning. "My pictures are my versification in lines. If by any chance they are entitled to claim recognition, it must be primarily for some rhythmic significance of form which is ultimate and not for any interpretation of an idea of representation of a fact," Tagore had written once.
According to the book, Tagore`s expression in paintings was, as it was for Matisse and many other modern paintings, primarily a function of composition.
In literature, a story is told through characters built from events unfolding successively and in paintings, charged moments are evoked though figures compositionally framed by the artist.
"In these paintings where he explores the narrative and expressive potential of the body in movement and gesture, Rabindranath uses insights gained from theater just as he brings a writer`s sense of character into his rendering of faces," Kumar, who teaches art history at Visva-Bharati says.
Dr Radice refers many of Tagore`s poems as `sari-poems` because the shape of them on the page reminds him of the asymmetrical way in which a sari is wrapped round the body.
"A painting may seem a static object compared to a poem or song, but if we do not sense in Tagore`s lines and forms a movement as dynamic as his poetry, then we have missed what his paintings are about," the book concludes.