In a rare occurrence, Tagore’s artwork shows up at auction and fetches ₹9.36 lakh

An undated ink-on-brown paper painting by the late poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore went up for sale on Friday at an online auction organized by auction house AstaGuru.

Tagore, a polymath who was also a philosopher, composer, writer, playwright and educator, created thousands of paintings in different mediums, but his works are rarely auctioned. “Tagore was a fairly prolific painter, with over 2,300 creations in just over 10 years, starting at the age of 60, but most of his work is already public in institutions such as Visva Bharati in Santiniketan , or the National Gallery of Modern Art, which do not sell paintings,” says Santiniketan-based art historian R Siva Kumar.

Even when a work surfaces, since all of its works are designated national treasures, none can leave the country. Tagore’s paintings have fetched crores at auction.

Bird, the painting in question, comes from the collection of another illustrious artist, the late Nandalal Bose. Bidding started at 20,000 and the work eventually sold for over 9.36 million.

Looking at images of Bird, Debraj Goswami, artist and assistant professor of fine arts at MS University in Baroda, said the work could be seen as reflecting the influence of Haida art. Tagore is said to have been struck by this Native North American art form while visiting the United States.

“Haida artwork is usually very simplified forms of animals and birds, usually in black and white. Inspired by them, Tagore painted many imaginary creatures in black and white, using ink on paper,” Goswami said.

“It’s not just a work of art, but a relic of India’s national history,” said Sunny Chandiramani, vice president of customer relations at AstaGuru.

(All prices include buyer’s premium)


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