Abanindranath Tagore’s celebrated masterpiece ‘Journey’s End’ (C. 1913)
The first thing that strikes one about Abanindranath Tagore’s paintings is how they are both soft and precise. The lines are not insistent or meant to convey the artist’s command over his art. Nothing is painted to stand out or impress. There is an inherent calm to the three works here and others that I have seen. And yet they leave a lasting impression.
Cursory reading about the master painter, regarded as the founder of Bengal School, tells me that his approach was a direct counter to the more forceful “academic realist art practices.” Those practices I take to mean the kind that followed the precision painting taught by European academies. Having now seen and written about many European masters, I can see the contrast very clearly.
His famous painting ‘Journey’s End’ shows a camel, weighed down by a heavy load, at the end of its journey. Tagore’s lines are precise and yet not mechanical in their precision. Check out the curve of the camel’s neck and the expression of exhaustion in its eyes. It is the sort of painting that wants you tell the story of the camel and the people whose load it carried.
Similarly, look at the camel’s hooves. They are anatomically accurate without being academic in their effect. Reading about him on Google Art Project tells me that he was influenced by both the Mughal miniature painting style as well as Japanese wash technique. All his works here have that soft focus which creates a sense of gentle haze.
His portrait of his mother has a distinctly Mughal miniature feel while ‘Landscape’ has the Zen-like quality of Japanese paintings.
For those of you interested,his works are on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi.
Tagore’s ‘My Mother’ (C. 1912-13)
‘Landscape’, Early 20th century