Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951)

Abanindranath was born in Jorasanko, Calcutta on 7 August 1871. His father Gunendranath was the son of Girindranath, the second son of Dwarkanath Tagore. Abanindranath's first formal training in pastel, watercolour and lifestudy was under the supervision of his private tutor, Signor Gilhardi. He attended the studio of Charles Palmer, an English painter, for instructions in oil paintings and portraiture. In 1895 he painted the Krishna-Lila series, which display a unique blend of both European and Indian, styles. E.B.Havell, Principal, Calcutta School of Art, on seeing these paintings was impressed and offered Abanindranath the post of Vice-principal of the School. Under Havell' s guidance he studied Mughal and Rajput styles of painting thoroughly.

In the early years of the century Abanindranath met Okakura. Okakura taught composition to Abanindranath by means of simple shapes such as matchsticks, emphasising the need for organic unity in art. In 1903 Okakura returned to Japan and sent his pupils Yokoyama Taikan and Hishida Shunso to Calcutta where they interacted with Abanindranath.

Taikan taught Abanindranath how to wield the brush with a light touch and of the evocative powers of gestures. He was able to incorporate this learning into his Omar Khaiyam series (1906-08).

Abanindranath, the painter was established as the creator of a new national vocabulary in art and he helped to regenerate the decadent art and aesthetic scene in India. The Indian Society of Oriental Art was established to promote the Abanindranath-style on the national plane. It was Abanindranath who ushered in the modem art movement in Bengal. It was his brush, which first gave convincing proof that the Indian artist had his own contribution to make to the world of painting.

As Bageswari Professor of Art of the Calcutta University he gave a series of talks which were rare aesthetic illuminations; unparalleled in its simplicity and informalism. His other books on art include Banglar Brata, Bharatshilpe Murti, Bharatshilpa and Bharatshilper Sadanga - all bearing the imprint of his great depth, profundity and simplicity. His prose has a distinctive quality - even the most complex subject is rendered in a simple, unassuming style revealing the essence of his genius.

His writings for children are in a class by themselves, the stories are told so picturesquely that it was said, Aban Thakur writes pictures. His Kshirer Putul, Buro Angla, Raj Kahini, Sakuntala are classics which will always stimulate the imagination of the children of Bengal and be part of their childhood. His reminiscences form another genre where in Apankatha, Gharoa, Pathe Vipathe and Jorasankor Dhare he has enlivened and immortalised his childhood, his Jorasanko days and the contemporary scene.