When Indian economist Amartya Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998, he chose lines from a poem by the beloved Rabindranath Tagore to open his dinner speech. He was not the first to have done so.
Fifteen years earlier, the Indian physicist, Subramanian Chandrasekhar, quoted the same poem, perhaps the best known in Modern India.
Tagore died when Sen was a young child, but, as he notes below, he was fortunate to have other great teachers along the way, formally and informally — like the esteemed painter, Nandalal Bose, who was a neighbor and close friend of Sen’s family. Amid the divisive discourse driving much of Indian politics today, he notes below, the lessons of open-mindedness and global inclusivity taught by educators like Tagore and Bose are as instructive today as they were in his and his nation’s youth.
On 17 September, 81 artworks of Rabindranath Tagore, his nephew Abanindranath Tagore and artist Nandalal Bose went under the hammer at Christie’s – the globally recognised auction house. In the auction titled "The Art of Nandalal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore: The Collection of Supratik Bose", the works from the collector, Nandalal Bose's grandson, were put up for the first time.
"We are deeply honoured to have been entrusted by Supratik Bose to handle this extraordinary collection that his grandfather Nandalal Bose handed down to him. It documents the shared vision of three artistic geniuses, linked by the common goal of art and humanity, family and friendship," said Hugo Weihe, Christie's international director of Asian Art, in a statement on Tuesday.
As a young boy, Supratik lived with Nandalal in Santiniketan, about a hundred miles north of Kolkata, surrounded by nature and tribal villages. He was the only child in the household — a home that, as he describes it, was so permeated by art, one couldn’t help becoming artistic “by osmosis.” Supratik would go on to become a Harvard-educated architect and urban designer, but it was his years growing up immersed in his grandfather’s art, friends and sensibilities at the dawn of Indian independence that proved most formative.
The works auctioned at Christie’s include a handwritten version of the poem “Where The Mind is Without Fear” by Rabindranath Tagore. There was also a collection of postcards shared between Abanindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose that speaks of their friendship and admiration they had for each other.
Rabindranath Tagore’s handwritten poem ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear,’ realized $363,750 - a world auction record for the artist. An Asian institution bought the work. Christie’s didn’t mention the name of the buyer. The poem was a part of the poet’s collection of verse titled ‘Gitanjali,’ which means ‘song offerings,’ and was composed in Bengali and published in 1910. The anthology was later translated and published in English in 1912-13.
Other works by Tagore sold at the auction included his paintings. ‘Untitled (Siva-Simantini),’ a painting by Tagore’s nephew, Abanindranath Tagore, went under the hammer for $555,750. The 90-year-old piece was bought by a private collector. Five paintings by Nandalal Bose, which were among the top-selling, went for a total of $450,250 at the auction.
Christie’s will be holding its first auction in India in December this year, in Mumbai.