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Mythical Animals

Mythical Animals

Item Description:


NATIONAL ART TREASURE - NON-EXPORTABLE ITEM (Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale at the back of the catalogue)

Ink on paper

6 ¾ x 9 ¼ in. (17.2 x 23.6 cm.); 8 x 12 ¼ in. (20.3 x 31.1 cm.) (2)

Signed ‘Rabindra’ in Bengali lower middle and inscribed 'London New 5' in Bengali on reverse


From the collection of Nandalal Bose's eldest daughter, Gouri Bhanja, nee Bose and thence by descent.

For much of his life, despite a deep reverence for all the arts, Rabindranath Tagore focused on his writing. Although the majority of his paintings were produced in the last ten years of his life, he had sketched as a young man and continued to draw intermittently throughout his life. As in this instance, Tagore gifted many of these early works to family and friends. Towards the end of his life, he became more and more fascinated with painting, and what began as doodles on his working manuscripts, became an obsession. In his last ten years, he is known to have produced almost two thousand pictures, yet few works remain in private hands, as the majority of the artist’s paintings form part of the collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and the Rabindra Bhavana in Santiniketan.

‘Rabindranath Tagore’s artistic adventure began with doodles that turned crossed-out words and lines into images that assumed expressive and sometimes grotesque forms. They were unplanned and shaped by accidents and intuitive decisions but often seem to carry memories of ‘primitive’ art objects he should have seen in books and museums. Something of this spilled into his early paintings. Many of them represent animals, but they are seldom of the real ones we know of; more often they represent what he has described as ‘a probable animal that had unaccountably missed its chance of existence’ or ‘a bird that only can soar in our dreams.’ This led him to the creation of an antediluvian menagerie. Spurred by the same spirit of inventiveness he also took to cross projecting the movement of a living animal on to an imagined body, or a human gesture onto an animal body and vice versa. This exchange between the familiar and the unknown, the inhabitation of one in the other, has led him to forms that are as expressive as they are inventive.’ (‘Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Painter’,, Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Painter, online exhibition catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011)

Tagore's paintings can be broadly categorised into three types: human figures, landscapes, and primitive forms that appear to be inspired by tribal and oceanic art. The current lot and the two following lots in the sale fall into this final category. In this style of work, Tagore reveals his natural tendency towards a symbolist approach; his subconscious doodles and these more evolved works seem to tap an archaic source. The artist states 'I have a force acting in me... that ever tries to win me for itself... this life impulse I speak of belongs to a personality beyond the ego.' (Geeta Kapur, 'Rabindranath Tagore', Six Indian Painters, exhibition catalogue, The Tate Gallery, London, 1982, p. 18) Despite the artist’s insistence that his paintings evolved at an almost subconscious level, it is evident from the similarity of compositions of the two works in the current lot, that at times his pen and ink doodles became preparatory drawings for more formalised coloured ink works.

Abanindranath Tagore says of his uncle's work: ‘ has happened like a volcanic eruption … Just think of it – what an abundance of colour, lines and ideas was stored in the inmost recesses of the heart, for which literature was not enough nor songs, nor lyrics – Which had to come out at last in paintings.’ (Abanindranath Tagore, reprinted in Bichitra, An Exhibition of Rabindranath Tagore’s Paintings, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, 2000, p. 33)

* Antiquity or Art Treasure – Non-exportable Item. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale.

About The Artist:


₹ 5000000.00 ( Sold Price )


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Mythical Animals

Listed price: $3,000,000.00

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