Compiling Tagore`s art on 150th birthday

New Delhi: The spotlight is on the lesser known aspects of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore on his 150th birth anniversary - his numerous art works, his contribution to gender issues and environment among other things.

"The foremost among them are his paintings. The first exhibition of Tagore`s paintings was held in Paris from May 2-19 in 1930. The next one will be in Germany to commemorate the Paris show. We have managed to find a place in Germany said Culture Secretary Jawhar Sircar.

He said the Vishva Bharati University in Shantiniketan, set up by the Nobel Laureate, was compiling an anthology of high-resolution images of Tagore`s paintings, "Chitravali".

"I hope `Chitravali` will be in print by May 7. The Vishva Bharati University is collaborating with the government for the volume," Sircar told reporters here Saturday.

"Nearly 1,800 of his drawings are locked away at Vishva Bharati," he said.

The poet, who turned an artist late in life at 60 in the 1920s, has nearly 3,000 works to his credit that includes sketches and oil compositions of faces, figures and strange creatures - combining human, animal and natural elements.

He was influenced by European abstract expressionism and his family was grounded in art. His nephews Gaganendranath and Abanindranath Tagore were renowned artists, who scripted a new indigenous language of art at a time when Indian art was trying to free itself of the shackles of British company paintings.

Sircar said academic Surojit Banerjee, who is associated with Allied Publishers, has "taken it upon himself to electronically compile Tagore`s literary works which run into approximately 29 volumes".

Another area of focus is translation. "We are encouraging translations of his work from Bengali to English and to other foreign languages. His movies will be also be formatted in DVDs to reach wider sections of viewers," he said.

The prestigious German Literature Archive is publishing a German anthology of his prose and poetry on his 150th birth anniversary.

"The National Committee led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which will implement the anniversary roster has decided to host the core 150th anniversary function on May 7 across India while Bangladesh will follow it up a day later on May 8 with mutual consent," Sircar said.

The aspects of Tagore that the National Committee would concentrate on this year include "contemporary relevance of Tagore, his lasting contribution to gender issues, education, rural construction, environment and forest and communal peace," the culture secretary added.

The ministry has also launched a Tagore Commemoration Grant scheme in memory of the multi-faceted genius of Tagore and his contribution to arts and culture nationally and internationally with a grant of Rs.5 lakh, he said.

Sircar said the "programmes hinged broadly on creating new Tagore centres and refurbishing the old ones across India as focal points of national cultural activity, institution of Tagore awards, publication of works related to Tagore`s works and contribution, refreshing memory of his contribution to Indian philosophy and hosting showcases of his art, documentaries and new media interventions".

Born in Jorasanko, his family home in Kolkata, on May 7, 1861, Tagore penned his first poem at the age of eight.

In 1913, Tagore was honoured with the Nobel Prize for his collected works, "Gitanjali". He was the only poet whose compositions, "Jana Gana Mana..." and "Amar Sonar Bangla ..." were adopted as the national anthems of two countries, India and Bangladesh. He modernised Bengali art and literature by spurning rigid classical forms.


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