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Abanindranath Tagore

Abanindranath Tagore

The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi put together a cool online tour called “The Great Maestro – Abanindranath Tagore” to celebrate the 153th birthday of Abanindranath Tagore on August 7, 2023.


  • Abanindranath was the first major supporter of swadeshi values in Indian art.
  • He first created the ‘Indian Society of Oriental Art’ and later went on to establish Bengal school of art which led to the development of modern Indian painting.
  • He also sought to modernise the Mughal and Rajput styles to counter the influence of Western models of art, as taught in art schools under the British Raj.

Key Points

  • Abanindranath Tagore took birth in a family of Tagores of Jorasanko in Kolkata in 1871.
  • He was a nephew of Rabindranath Tagore.
Abanindranath Ideology
  • Abanindranath Tagore, when he was young, received artistic training in the European and Academic styles from European artists.
  • However, as the 19th century came to a close, he started disliking the realism of European art, which focused on representing things exactly as they appear, almost like a scientific study of nature.
  • Abanindranath found inspiration in Mughal miniatures, and this influence played a significant role in shaping his artistic vision.
  • In 1902, the Japanese philosopher and aesthetician Okakura Kakuzo visited Kolkata, and this encounter left a lasting impact on Abanindranath’s art.
  • Over time, he started leaning towards painting images that carried historic or literary references, adding depth and meaning to his artwork.
Prominent Figure of Modern Indian Art
  • Toward the end of the 1800s, artists began blending art with a sense of national identity. Many painters aimed to create a style that was both modern and uniquely Indian.
  • Raja Ravi Varma was a pioneer in this movement. He excelled in Western oil painting and realistic life portrayal but chose themes from Indian mythology for his works.
  • Meanwhile, in Bengal, a group of nationalist artists, led by Abanindranath Tagore, emerged. They criticized Ravi Varma’s art as imitative and too Western, asserting that it wasn’t suitable for representing India’s ancient myths and legends.
  • The Bengal artists believed that authentic Indian painting should find inspiration in non-Western art traditions. They sought to capture the spiritual essence of the East in their work, rejecting the notion of simply imitating Western styles.
Bengal School of Painting
  • It is also called the Renaissance School or the Revivalist School, as it represented the first modern movement of Indian art.
  • It rediscovered the glories of Indian art and consciously tried to produce what it considered a truly Indian art inspired by the creations of the past.
  • Its leading artist was Abanindranath Tagore and its theoretician was E.B. Havell, the principal of the Calcutta School of Art.
  • They broke away from the convention of oil painting and the realistic style, and turned for inspiration to medieval Indian traditions of miniature painting and the ancient art of mural painting in the Ajanta caves.
  • They were also influenced by the art (wash technique) of Japanese artists who visited India at that time to develop an Asian Art movement.

Death: He died on 5th December, 1951.

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