At the time when the art of India was breaking free of the shackles of the sterile confines of the British controlled Company School, the multi-talented Tagore family was at the fountainhead of the emerging modern school, popularly known as the Neo-Bengal School. In this family of artists, was born on 18th of September, 1867, Gaganendranath Tagore, nephew of Rabindranath, at Jorasanko, at the Tagore Family Home.

Gaganendranath is counted, along with his brother Abanindranath, as one of the earliest practitioners of modern art in India. Gaganendranath was inspired by the visiting Japanese artist Yokoyama Taikan and other Far Eastern styles, early in his artistic life.

With his proficiency in the European water-colour techniques, he was probably the first artist to explore with French style of painting in India. He also came under the influence of experimentalist art prevalent in Europe at that time and was allured towards geometric compositions.    

His imagination was fired by anything Indian or Oriental, probably more so, because of his assertive nationalism. He was, like the other Tagores, also versatile in his artistic interests, and involved himself in theatre, reading and photography. His interest in photography may have got him interested in the mysterious play of light and shade and patterns. This was the gist of cubism, seeking to represent one’s experiences in terms of patterns which are often veiled by the visual appearance. He developed his own brand of Cubism, through his various inspirations but, what he is best known for is political cartoons and social satires on Westernised Bengalis. Gaganendranath was one of the most famous Indian cartoonists of his time. He got interested in lithography with his brother Abanindranath Tagore.               

 Rabindranath Tagore, his uncle commented on his art, thus, in 1938: “What profoundly attracted me was the uniqueness of his creation, a lively curiosity in his constant experiments, and some mysterious depth in their imaginative value. Closely surrounded by the atmosphere of a new art movement … he sought out his own untrodden path of adventure, attempted marvelous experiments in colouring and made fantastic trials in the magic of light and shade.” Rabindranath Tagore used to describe Gaganendranath as an ideal of completeness in life. His artistic make-up was one wholesome entity, and whatever walk of life he treads, he gave it an artistic orientalisation, flavouring each of his artistic pursuits with daring originality of conception and execution of a bewildering variety of themes in different styles and techniques.

The largest number of paintings of Gaganendranath now forms part of Rabindra-Bharati Society’s collection at Jorasanko, Calcutta.  In 1907, he founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art along with his brother Abanindra Nath Tagore. Political Seascape, Pencil

Work of Gagnendra Nath