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Faces of the World

From around 1924 until his death in 1941 at the age of eighty, Tagore continued to paint, leaving behind a collection of 2,500 drawings and paintings. The most recurring subjects of his paintings were human faces, and they reveal expressions that are brooding, haunting, and mysterious.

Untitled (Man’s head with shaggy beard)

Untitled (Man’s head with shaggy beard), 1939
Ink on paper
9 15/16 x 14 1/16 in. (25.2 x 35.6 cm)
Rabindra Bhavana, 00-2503-16

Aesthetician Prithwish Neogy describes the faces in Tagore’s work as “familiar types, characters and portraits, masks of sarcasm, masks of terror . . . heads of power and glory, delicate oval moon-faces of silent lips and with eyes to transfix…”3

Untitled (Portrait of a woman with veil)

Untitled (Portrait of a woman with veil), 1934
Colored ink and opaque white on silk
35 5/8 x 23 13/16 in. (90.5 x 60.5 cm)
Rabindra Bhavana, 00-1849-16


Some ascribe the expressions of his portraits to the impact on Rabindranath of the loss of loved ones in his boyhood and youth. In particular, memory of his sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi, whose shocking suicide in 1884 had a powerful effect on him.

3. Prithwish Neogy.Drawings and Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore,” from Rabindranath Tagore, Ratan Parimoo, ed. op cit, p. 7. Reprinted from Lalit Kala Akademi publication, 1961