He was an accidental artist. Rabindranath Tagore is better known as a poet, novelist, musician and playwright, but as India begins year-long celebrations of Gurudev's 150th birth anniversary, it was an exhibition of his paintings that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“He began painting when he was well into his 60s,” noted Dr. Singh, speaking at the opening of “The Master's Strokes: Art of Rabindranath Tagore” exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art on Sunday.
In fact, he did not even begin painting until long after he won the Nobel Prize. “What began as a poet subconsciously joining his erasures, over-writings, corrections and doodles, gradually materialised into a unique form of art. Rabindranath came to enjoy his efforts and found painting to be yet another expressive medium for his restless, creative mind.”
The government has planned a series of cultural and academic events to “rekindle public interest in Gurudev's rich cultural legacy and in his thoughts, ideals, teachings and values” over the course of this year, said the Prime Minister.
A national committee headed by Dr. Singh and including several Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, scholars and experts has been set up to plan the celebrations, along with an implementation committee to be headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
In the last 17 years of his life, Tagore made more than 3,000 paintings and drawings, most of which are at Visva-Bharati. The institution will publish a prestigious set of Tagore's paintings and drawings, called the Chitra-vali, supported by the Union Ministry of Culture.
Along with the National Gallery of Modern Art, they are also preparing a grand exhibition of Tagore's paintings in Paris next year, the city where Tagore displayed his art for the first time in 1930.
Tagore hardly had any formal training in art, but “developed a highly imaginative and spontaneous visual vocabulary,” said the Prime Minister. For Tagore, “art was the bridge that connected the individual with the world at large,” he said.