Artist Profile

Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) was an Indian painter. He founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art and was its most important artist. He was also the founder of the Bengal School of Art, which is seen as being instrumental in the advent of Indian painting as it is known today. Tagore was concerned that Western artistic styles were exerting too much influence on Indian painters, and promoted a style based instead on a modern interpretation of traditional Rajput and Moghul art. Tagore also wrote several children’s books, which remain popular in Bengal.

Tagore’s first significant published works were a number of magazine illustrations which were published in the early 1890s. Already a writer, he also drew the illustrations for the stories he had written. He expanded his artistic range to include watercolor painting in the late 1890s, having taken a particular interest in that form while undergoing tuition from the Government School of Art’s Vice Principal. However, despite this Western-influenced teaching, Tagore was also becoming increasingly interested in Mughal art, using a style based on this to depict the life of Krishna.

A little later, Tagore met the English academic and art historian, E. B. Havell. The two men formed a partnership with the aim of modernizing and refreshing the teaching of art at the Calcutta School of Art, a project that received considerable support from Tagore’s brother, Gaganendranath. Tagore felt that Western art was excessively materialistic, and that Indian painting suffered from its close adherence to the British style. In fact, the Pre-Raphaelite movement in Britain itself had already articulated many of the same general ideas as Tagore, although the Indian artist made much of the need for his country to rediscover its own spiritual values and traditions.

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