The Illumination of the Shadow
Gaganendranath Tagore
Watercolour and oil on card
27 cm x 18.8 cm

“Beauty is illumination born of the dark.” ― Thomas Lloyd Qualls (@alchemyofwords)

And it is this darkness on the new moon night of Diwali that has been illuminated by the light of festivity in this rare painting of Gaganendranath Tagore. Painted in sometime before 1924, ‘The Illumination of the Shadow’, as it is titled, depicts the celebration on the occasion of Deepawali, the Hindu Festival of lights, in the famous Bhavatarini (an incarnation of Goddess Kali) temple in Dakshineshwar, Kolkata. The dark silhouette of the gateway is illuminated by the series of yellow dots representing the blazing diyas (earthen lamps) while an atmospheric fog engulfs the towering architecture of the temple. Though placed in the background, the navaratna (nine spires) temple is in focus standing against the dark blue sky of late Autumn.

Showing a strong influence of WashPainting, which Gaganendranath learned from the Japanese artists visiting his jorasanko house, the painting defines a transitory phase in the artist’s career. The nocturne paintings (a term coined by James Abbott Mcneill Whistler), oeuvred during this period, bear the evidence of the intensifying enchantment he experienced in the luminosity of light.

This painting is currently in the Private UK Collection. The present owner’s mother consumed it from the artist while travelling to India.

Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938), one of the pioneering exponent of modern Indian art, was a self-taught artist whose relentless exploration of form, space and technique enabled him to carve out a niche for himself. His distinct style of cubism, was much appreciated by the German critics. He played a major role in organising the exhibition by the bauhaus artists in Calcutta in 1922. Gaganendranath’s works, though remained uncelebrated during his lifetime, are now considered as ‘national treasures’.

Happy Diwali to all the supporters of Desee Art family!

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Artist image credit: Wikimedia


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