Lecture by Prof. Ratan Parimoo

 

Inaugural Lecture by Prof. Ratan Parimoo on ‘The Pictorial Life of Gaganendranath Tagore’

Dr. Ratan Parimoo is one of the most prominent art historians of modern India. For a long time he was a professor of Art History & Aesthetics at the M.S. University of Baroda. He obtained Graduate Degree from University of London in 1963 and Doctorate from the M.S. University of Baroda for his research on ‘Paintings of the three Tagores’. He received the Rockfeller Grant to study in the USA in 1974 and the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship for his research on ‘Jataka Stories in Buddist Art’ in 1991. He is presently the Director of the LD Museum and NC Mehta Gallery in Ahmedabad. His books include: Paintings of the Three Tagores (1973), Studies in Modern Indian Art (1975), Life of Buddha in Indian Sculpture (1982), Sculptures of Sheshashayi Vishnu (1983), The Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore (1989) and Studies in Indian Sculpture (1999).
He is also the person who gave the Art History and Aesthetics Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts Baroda its disciplinary direction and founded the archive/Regional Documentation Center.

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Lecture Summary
The first half of the 20th century is the period of Revival and Early Modernity. Among the major important painters were two Tagore brothers Abanindranath and Gaganendranath (1867-1928) and their uncle Rabindranath. While Abanindranath’s genius flowered in the direction of rediscovering the indigenous heritage and language of art, Gaganendranath followed his own course of development so that he could without conflict adopt some of the European modernist notions of pictorial structure and cubistic principles. In the lecture on Gaganendranath, the attempt would be made to draw attention to his creative process and artistic journey. His early phase (1909-1911) was inspired by Rabindranath’s childhood reminiscences for which Gaganendranath made many illustrations in brush lines, in ink strokes, scenes of Kolkata, riverscapes included experimentation with the Japanese ink technique, sumi-e. Through this subsequent two decades he often took up themes from Rabindranath’s poetry so that he can be termed the poet’s alter ego. Again Gaganendranath painted extensively Bengal riverside, night scenes of Durga immersions and Himalayan landscapes. He showed Vaishnavite spiritual leanings when he painted the Chaitya’s biographical episodes. These were followed by the Satirical Drawings between 1915-1921 and which were printed through the lithography medium. Thus, he joined the Bengali social and political satirists who were using the literary medium and the medium of theatre. He also designed theatre sets for Rabindranath’s drama performances through 1920s, during which period Gaganendranath also experimented cubistic pictorial structure and surprisingly also revealed his sensitivity to colour harmonies. Through the cubistic language subsequently he arrived at his last creative phase of dark paintings appropriately paintings in black ink. They have a mysterious quality and shadowy architecture with staircases leading to unknown interiors. Within these dark depths are grouped shadowy female figures seated or standing. Unfortunately in around 1928, he was struck with paralyses which made him speechless and died ten years later. He is an archetypal painter who from being an extrovert and whose art can be understood essentially in psychological terms.