Rabindranath learnt drawing in his childhood and was attracted to the sketches drawn by his elder brother Jyotirindranath.
In 1924, while writing Purabi he started doodling on the pages of his manuscript. Thus, Rabindranath Tagore's famous world appearence as painter in France in 1930 was not sudden. Long before the Paris exhibition which catapaulted him to worldwide fame, in 1926, Tagore had long discussions on his art with Romain Rolland. Himself a Nobel Laureate, Romain Rolland wrote in his book "Inde-Journal" on 3rd July, 1926, that Tagore had been discussing on his application of colour in paintings. He likes very little red colour, the dominance of red colour in Italian village did not attract him. His love was for violet and blue, and for green. Tagore had discussions about art with another Nobel laureate, French Poet, St John Perse, (Saint-John Perse, pseudonym of Marie-René-Auguste-Aléxis Saint-Léger Léger (born May 31, 1887, Saint-Léger-les-Feuilles, Guadeloupe—died Sept. 20, 1975, Presqu’île-de-Giens, France), French poet and diplomat who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960 “for the soaring flight and evocative imagery of his poetry.”) over their several meetings in 1920s.
Rabindranath transformed his lack of formal training into an advantage and opened new horizons in the use of line and colour. He was prolific in his paintings and sketches as he was in his writing, producing over 2500 of these within a decade. Over 1500 of them are preserved in Viswa Bharati, Santiniketan.
This was his first exhibition.
His message was broadcast-ed from Radio Paris and his dirth day was celebrated gorgeously in Paris.
"Up to the nineties of the last century, the creative talent of the Tagores flowed mainly along the channels of literature, music and drama. Round about that time, the youngest scion of the other branch, Abanindranath in his twenties started taking formal lessons in painting from a visiting Italian art-teacher. Quite early in his apprenticeship, he gave unmistakable evidence of his talent in this new field. The elders took note, and received the youngster within their magic circle with enthusiasm.
There is an album of riddle-pictures come down from old. times which go to show how childlike the Tagores could be. Rabindranath was at that time (1893) holidaying in Simla with the family of his second brother, Satyendranath. Two of his nephews, Surendranath in Simla and Abanindranath in Calcutta took it into their heads to exchange letters in the form of pictures with a story. Much nimbleness of wit and fingers was required to devise these puzzle-pictures. With their characteristic fervor, two of the uncles, Jyotirindranath and Rabindranath joined their nephews in this prank, and, in the result we have some of the earliest pencil sketches by the poet. Unlike much of his later works some of these are brilliant miniatures and a marvel of accurate draughtsmanship.
The Simla visit was actually an interlude of the Shelida period (1890-1900) when the poet was administering the family estates in riverine Bengal. To this period belong the letters of the Chhinnapatra (Glimpses of Bengal) series-beautiful vignettes of life and nature, which have few parallels in world literature.
It was about this time that we come across the first pointed reference by Tagore to his 'dabbling' with painting. Writing to his niece. Indira under the date July, 1893 he says:
"To tell you the honest truth, 1 do not quite know what my real vocation is or should be. I am very much in the position of a young woman who, in the pride of her youth, would not like to part with any of her suitors. I have not the heart to baulk any of the muses... If I were to confess without fear or shame, I may as well tell you that very often I cast looks of longing, after the fashion of a disappointed lover, towards the Muse of Art. But, alas, she is difficult to win, for, I am past that age when I could woo her "
Several years later writing to his scientist-friend, J.C.Bose in London on 17th September, 1900 he says:
"It will be some surprise to you to hear that I have been painting in a sketch book. Needless to say, my pictures are not meant for any salon of Paris, nor do I have the least apprehension that the National Gallery of some countries would suddenly take it into their head to acquire these paintings with money extorted from the tax-payers. One feels strongly drawn to an alien art even as a mother towards an ungainly offspring. That is why when I made up my mind this time to devote myself entirely to laziness, I hit upon this occupation of an artist to while time away. The trouble is that my progress is retarded by the exigency of erasing more than I can ever draw-with the result that I have become more an adept with the eraser than with the pencil. So, Raphael dead can rest in peace in his grave-at least I shall not be the rival to lower his colours". Rabindranath Tagore's emergence as an artiste by Kshitish Roy