The Extraordinary Life of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore, known as Gurudev, was a Bengali poet, Brahmo Samaj philosopher, artist, playwright, novelist and composer whose works changed the face of Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 for ‘Gitanjali’ and became Asia’s first Nobel Laureate. He soon became a cultural icon in India.

A Pirali Bengali Brahmin from Kolkata, India, Tagore was extremely realistic and a non-conformist by nature. He befriended Mahatma Gandhi and joined the Indian Independence Movement and also founded the Visva-Bharati University.

images-11Tagore was responsible for freeing Bengali art from the constraints of classical Indian forms and making it very modern. He was well aware of contemporary cultural trends around the world and so his journey as a painter began in his late sixties, as an extension of his poetic consciousness. Though he had hardly any formal training in art, he developed a highly imaginative and spontaneous visual vocabulary, enhanced by a sound understanding of visual art practices such as modern western, primitive and child art. A powerful imagination added an inexplicable strangeness to his work that is sometimes experienced as eerie and evocative. Tagore celebrated creative freedom in his technique; he never hesitated to daub and smear coloured ink on paper to give life to his disquieting range of subjects. His drawings and ink paintings are freely executed with brush, rag, cotton-wool and even his fingers. For Tagore, art was the bridge that connected the individual with the world.


A modernist, Tagore completely belonged to the world of his time particularly in the realm of art. Tagore died on 7th August 1941 after a prolonged illness. Tagore remains known all over the world for his multifarious talents that are heavily embedded in India’s cultural heritage.

(Excerpt credits – NGMA, ‘The Humanist Extraordinaire’ by Sameer Chatterji)


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