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Lithograph - Confusion of Ideas
  • Confusion of Ideas
    Tagore, Gaganendranath, born 1867 - died 1938
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Confusion of Ideas

  • Object:

    Lithograph

  • Place of origin:

    Calcutta, India (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1917 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tagore, Gaganendranath, born 1867 - died 1938 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lithograph on paper

  • Museum number:

    IS.41-1979

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This lithograph (which was also included in the bound volume of caricatures 'The Realm of the Absurd') highlights the hypocrisy of the westernised Indian businessmen who visit a temple to pay their respects to the gods dressed in their western suits and hats.One Babu makes the traditional 'namaskar' greeting with his hands while a newely-hatched chick (forbidden to Hindu vegetarians) pokes out of his pocket; the other raises his sola topee to the deity, while holding a cigarette. The term ‘Babu’ was originally one of respect, but became a derogatory term in the early 20th century and referred to those native Indians who were attempting to be more modern and westernised. Whilst the Bengali caption is read as 'Confusion with worshipping' the English translation of the title is a 'Confusion of Ideas'.

Physical description

This lithograph on paper (which was also included in the bound volume of caricatures 'The Realm of the Absurd') highlights the hypocrisy of the westernised Indian businessmen who visit a temple to pay their respects to the gods dressed in their western suits and hats. One Babu makes the traditional 'namaskar' greeting with his hands while a newely-hatched chick (forbidden to Hindu vegetarians) pokes out of his pocket; the other raises his sola topee to the deity, while holding a cigarette. Whilst the Bengali caption is read as 'Confusion with worshipping' the English translation of the title is a 'Confusion of Ideas'.

Place of Origin

Calcutta, India (made)

Date

ca. 1917 (made)

Artist/maker

Tagore, Gaganendranath, born 1867 - died 1938 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Lithograph on paper

Dimensions

Height: 43 cm, Width: 27.5 cm

Historical context note

Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938) was a satirical cartoonist and painter. Born in Calcutta, Gaganendranath grew up in a family whose exceptional creativity spearheaded Calcutta's cultural scene. Gaganendranath was nephew of poet Rabindranath Tagore and brother of Abanindranath Tagore, the pioneer and leading exponent of the Bengal School of Art.

The artist received no formal education but was trained under the British school watercolourist Harinarayan Bandopadhyay. In 1907, he founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art with his brother Abanindranath. Between 1906 and 1910, the artist assimilated the Japanese brush technique and Far Eastern pictorial conventions into his own work (see his illustrations for Rabindranath Tagore's autobiography Jeevansmriti published in 1912.) From 1910 until 1914, Gaganendranath developed his own approach to SUMI-E or black ink (see Chaitanya series and Pilgrim series.) Between 1915 and 1919, the artist, with the help of his brother, set up the Bichitra club in the Tagore family house. The club served as an important social, intellectual and artistic hub of cultural life in Calcutta, where many artists, including Nandalal Bose, A.K. Haldar and Suren Kar worked at their paintings.

During these years, Gaganendranath abandoned the ideological revivalism embraced by the Bengal School of Art and took up caricature to satirize the westernised middle class of urban Bengal. The artist's popularity was secured in 1917 when Modern Review published many of his shrewd cartoons. From 1917 onwards, his lithographs appeared in a series of books, including: Play of Opposites, Realm of the Absurd and Reform Screams. In these mocking pieces, the austerity of Kalighat paintings is wedded to the simplicity of Japanese prints. Between 1920 until 1925, Gaganendranath, informed about modern European art, pioneered experiments in cubism colour and in ink. His work however, was pictorially closer to the dynamism of Italian Futurism rather than the work of Picasso and Braque. From 1925 onwards, the artist developed a complex post-cubist style. Gaganendranath's work has been exhibited internationally.

Descriptive line

Lithograph, Confusion of ideas, by Gaganendranath Tagore, lithograph on paper, Kolkata, ca. 1917

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Arts of Bengal, by R. Skelton and M.Francis eds., London: Whitechapel Art Gallery,1979, no.132, p.55.
The Humorous Art of Gogonendranath Tagore, by O. C. Gangoly, Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta, 1973
The Paintings of the three great Tagores: Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore. Chronology and comparative Studies, by Dr Ratan Parimoo, 1973
"Gaganendranath Tagore, A Painter of his Time" by A. Kar, in LKC 6, 1968, pp. 1-6
"Gaganendranath's Realm of the Absurd" by M.R. Anand in Roopa Lekha, XXXVIII, 1969, pp.168-181
"Cartoons of the Raj" by Partha Mitter, in History Today, September 1997, Volume: 47, Issue: 9, pp. 16-21
"The Art of Gaganendranath Tagore" by Nirad C. Chauduri, in Puravi: a Miscellany, ed. Andrew Robinson and Krishna Datta, Tagore Centre, London, 1991
Art and Nationalism in Colonial India: Occidental Orientations, by Partha Mitter, Cambridge University Press, 1994
The Making of a New 'Indian' Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism, by T. Guha Thakurta, in Bengal ca. 1850-1920, Cambridge University Press, 1992

Exhibition History

Arts of Bengal (Whitechapel Art Gallery 30/12/1979-30/09/2011)

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Printed

Subjects depicted

Temple; Worship; Worshippers

Categories

Religion; Paintings; Hinduism; Politics; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project

Collection code

SSEA

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