To the lover of Indian art and particularly its renaissance in the earlier part of this century, two hooks will remain for many years to come as the standard guide books. They are, Gharoa and Jodasankor Dhare, collections of causeries by the father of modern Indian painting, Abanindranath Tagore. Few outside Bengal know Tagore as a great stylist in Bengali literature, and after the death of Rabindranath Tagore and Pramatha Chaudhury, he is easily by far the greatest stylist. His sparkling language, vivid description and flowing style make character after character appear before our eyes in the sharpest outlines and most brilliant colours: Indeed- it often seems as if the raconteur Tagore had more colours at his disposal than the artist Tagore on his palette. But what is of greater importance in these books is the huge wealth of information they contain about the rebirth of Indian painting, the lives of the pioneers-their trials and successes-the emergence of a definite form from among diverse and often conflicting currents, the co-operation of many creative geniuses of intellectual and other aesthetic activities and the lovers and connoisseurs of art who indirectly helped the renaissance, growth and development of the Tagore school. Indeed, almost all the creative geniuses of the late 19th and early 20th century in Bengal have found some place or other in these causeries. We hasten to add, however, that the causeries were neither meant to be systematic in presentation nor with a view to give a history of art. If they had any aim at all, it was to give aesthetic delight to the listeners, and those who have had the good luck and honour of having found the Master in a talking mood know what a great raconteur he is. It is a phenomenal achievement on the part of Shrimati Rani Chanda that she has succeeded in noting down such a tremendous lot of the original music, colour and movement. We do not think that even the disciples of Rodin and France had met with greater success. On Visvabharati Publishing House and particularly Mr. Pulin Bihari Sen falls the task of getting these valuable books translated into English. They have no right to remain hidden under bushels-however artistic they may be we know, much of the charm will be lost in the process but we trust that they would not feel diffident after the brilliant performance of Miss Sykes. With a view to give a very rough idea of the nature of the books, we have, in introducing Taikan, translated the short causerie on the Japanese Master. The translation does not claim to have succeeded in retaining the aesthetic beauty of the original: its aim is to arouse the interest of the non-Bengali reader in these extra-ordinary books.

"Taikan was really a very interesting fellow. Before Okakura* left India, after his last visit, he had told us, 'I shall send out a couple of our artists. They will see this country, they will paint and you will have the chance to see them at work; they will benefit by it, it will do you good also.' After returning, he sent out two artists-Taikan and Hishida. They were still very young then. Taikan had some grownup features to speak of-not at all bad to look at-but Hishida was an absolute baby, tiny little thing. Did not look like a boy at all, just like a Japanese girl dressed up like a boy in trousers and a jacket. Cheeks like rich, red apples, black eyes as if made of glass and a very sweet expression. I used to him in fun, You are Mrs. Taikan.' They used to roar with laughter." Taikan and Hishida used to put up with Suren. They used to roam about and paint, and did no end of sketching. How often have I noticed, while out on a drive, Taikan looking at this or that direction of the street and passing a right hand finger on his left palm. I would ask, 'What is that, Taikan?’ He would reply, I am just trying to get by heart the form. I drew it over the palm, shan't forget it again.' At other times, I used to notice him hastily pull out his sleeve and sketch on it with a pencil or pen. He did not care a bit for his dress; he used to put on a huge big straw hat and roam about the streets and bazaars of Calcutta in hot sun and did not care at all what people thought of his potty dress. If I tried to pass a remark on it, he would smile and say, But does it really matter very much? You know it keeps the head very cool M the sun.' Taikan used to come to my studio3' and work there. The pictures used to be exhibited, and they used to sell. Sometimes we used to commission him also. They had to cover their expenses in a foreign land and used to manage it that way. "When Taikan painted for the first time on silk with light ink, I could hardly make it out. We are used to see bright colours of Mughal and Persian paintings and what was this? No colours, no ink, just a whiff of smoke! What a castle of hopes I had built up Japanese artists would come, I would watch them at work, how they paint, how they put on colours, and what did I see? They would draw on silk with any odd piece of charcoal then brush it off with a feather and then pass some light ink over the whole, and that was the finished picture! I felt very bad about it and said to Suren,' What is this, Suren? I can hardly make out any picture at all Suren replied, 'You will, you will alright, get used to it first.' And that was God's truth. After some time I found that I had got used to see their pictures alright: I started liking them too. They did paint a lot of pictures. Then they wanted to paint our gods and goddesses: we had to describe them according to the sastras. Taikan painted Sarasvati and Kali. Sarala's mother bought them. "I wanted Taikan to paint for my studio. There was a huge big oil-painting on the wall. I sold it off to Rajen Mallik and asked Taikan to paint according to that measurement. Rasalila was the theme. Taikan asked me to describe it and I did. I had also to show how our women put on the sari. I got hold of one of our small girls and used her as model to show how the end of the sari goes round and round the body. He studied the folds and turns of the sari. Then I showed him in the pictures and photographs of old images the different ornaments and where they are to be used. So everything was ready. Then he spread paper all over the floor, started to paint. First of all he made the drawing on silk and then sat tight on the job of the serious painting. And then he started to apply colour after colour. The painting was completed in a few days. The moon appeared on the sky, everything was alright, but yet Taikan would not finish it. He used to stay in Ballygunj area and come early. As soon as he would arrive, he would remove the covering cloth of the painting his , look intently at it and again and again nodding his head from side to side as if something was not yet quite to his liking. It was the same every day. I asked him, 'Where have you got stuck? He said, Don't quite know, but I haveunder-stoodthis much that something is missing.' He would say it, look at the painting and nod his head. Now, one day he came in the morning and -entered the studio. Shiuli- flowers had started blossoming, and the ladies of the house had left a plateful in that room. Some of them were lying scattered by wind here and there. Taikan noticed them and picked them up one by one in his hand. I was sitting there watching the fun. With the flowers in his hand, he removed the covering cloth of the picture by one pull and scattered the flowers on the foreground of the painting; he was mightily pleased. He took more flowers from the plate and scattered them all over the picture, on the sky, cloud, trees, everywhere. His face was bursting with smiles. He would stand up, look at the painting from a distance and scatter more flowers on the painting. He finished all the flowers of the plate in ornamenting the painting. As if it were all an interesting game. After he was through with the decoration with the flowers, he gazed at the painting for a long time and then collected all the flowers and placed them back again on the plate. One single flower he took in the left hand and sat close at the painting. And then with orange and white colours he started ornamenting the painting with flowers. He would turn the flower in the left hand, look at it from all sides and then paint it. Before my eyes, the whole painting became white with flowers - as if showers of flowers fell from Ram-the sky and had floated over wind into the Rasalila dance. He gave a Kadamba flower in Radha's hand, garlanded her with a Shiulimala, and also entwined Krishna's flute with a Shiuli garland. It looked as if moonlight blossomed in the he of the flowers. Now at last Taikan finished the picture and said, this is what was missing all these days.' At last the picture was hung on the wall. Taikan framed it himself with the ends of Baluchari sari. Friends and cronies were invited to a party in the studio to witness the Rasalila. What fun we had in those days!" Taikan used to teach me line drawing, how to draw the brush. We draw our lines in a hurry-it was from Taikan that I learnt how very gently they draw their lines. He used to learn from me also-different techniques of Mughal painting. There was such camaraderie between us that there was no difference between exotic art and art of the soil. I do not see it much these days.

"I noticed Taikan used to study nature in real earnest. He took back to his country heaps and heaps of studies of our leaves, flowers, trees, human movements, ornaments, clothes-whatever he fancied. He went through a regular grind particularly studying Indian features and other peculiarities. It was at that time while looking at Taikan paint that it struck me to paint on wet paper. I used to see Taikan give a thorough wash of water on his picture and make it wet. I dipped my whole picture in water. When I took it out, I found that a beautiful effect has been produced. 'Wash' began from that day."



[1] Okakura Kakuzo, the late Ditrector of the Japanese Academy of Art, author of The Book of Tea, The Ideals of the East etc

[2] Suren is Abanindranath's eldest brother

[3] Sarala is Mrs. Rambhaj Chaudhury, and her mother Mrs. Ghosal is a sister of the poet.

[4] Shiuli is known as Parijataka in other provinces.
Published in Silpi, April 1947, pp. 20-23
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