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Tagore art works to be auctioned

Twelve important art works by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore belonging to the London-based Dartington Hall Trust will go under the hammer on June 15 at Sotheby's in London.

art and culture Updated: May 19, 2010 19:26 IST

TagoreTwelve important art works by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore belonging to the London-based Dartington Hall Trust will go under the hammer on June 15 at Sotheby's in London.

The compositions, mostly ovoid visages of women and figures which Tagore was known for, are appearing in the market for the first time, coinciding with his 150th birth anniversary celebrations.

The pre-sale combined estimate of the works are approximately 250,000 pounds.

The Nobel laureate, born in 1861, metamorphosed into an artist rather late in life at the age of 67. The poet, who started doodling on his writing sheets eventually moved to mastering contemporary artistic techniques like water colour, gouache, charcoal, pastels and coloured ink for his expressionist and abstract compositions.

He created a body of 2,500 art works in course of a little more than two decades.

The Dartington Hall Trust, a charitable organisation is located on the Dartington Hall estate, near Totnes in south Devon.

"The rarity and the distinguished provenance of the 12 Tagore paintings - in addition to the fact that they have never appeared in the open market before - makes their auction debut a once in a generation opportunity for collectors in the field. Together, the group unquestionably ranks as one of the most important collections of works by the artist to have ever come to the market," a senior Sotheby's official said.

All the works in the lot are untitled. An 'Untitled' portrait of a woman in watercolour, coloured ink, pastel in an imagery typical of Tagore, is estimated at 30,000 pounds while another composition of a lady with a fan, is expected to fetch 30,000 pounds.

A figure in black with bare arms and a green background that has been in the collection at Dartington Hall in the 1930s, is estimated at 40,000 pounds.

A landscape in yellow, black and green boasts of a pre-sale price of 15,000 pounds, while a figure in yellow and black is estimated at 30,000 pounds.

A series of human figures in sepia is expected to generate 20,000 pounds.

Commenting on the lot, Holly Blackberry, deputy director of Indian Art at Sotheby's said: "Bringing the 12 museum-quality paintings by one of the key modern masters of Indian painting has been a privilege. Together, they form a stand-put group and all of them have an impeccable provenance of having been in the possession of Dartington Hall most of their life. Given their exemplary history and the Tagore's status as one of India's most illustrious heritage artist, the sale is an once-in-a-lifetime acquisition opportunity."

Sotheby's has a successful history of selling works by Tagore. In May 2008, it had set an auction record for a composition, "Death Scene" from the collection of W.G and M. Archer, that sold for 144,550 pounds.

The top prices for Tagore's art at Sotheby's include a composition "Bird" that sold at Sotheby's London for 70,000 pounds, "Head of a Woman" that sold at Sotheby's New York sale at $104,500 in September 2008 and another at $55,000 in September 2007.

Tagore was closely associated with Dartington Hall. Leonard Elmhirst and his wife, American heiress Dorothy Whitney Elmhirst, who owned the estate and set up the trust, acquired the 12 paintings as a personal gift from the Nobel laureate.

Leonard had met Tagore in US as a student of Cornell University. After graduating from Cornell in 1921, Leonard travelled to India to work as his private secretary.

He also created a department for rural reconstruction on an estate belonging to Tagore's family.

First Published: May 19, 2010 16:23 IST