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PM Modi gifts Xi Jinping prints of paintings by Chinese artist who worked at Santiniketan

Narendra Modi gifted Xi Jinping prints of paintings by legendary Chinese artist Xu Beihong, who working under Rabindranath Tagore from 1939 to 1940

world Updated: Apr 28, 2018 07:43 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Wuhan
Modi in China,XI jinping,Paintings
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan, China on Friday. (PTI Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday presented specially made prints of paintings by legendary Chinese artist Xu Beihong, who spent time at Santiniketan, to President Xi Jinping during their informal summit.

Titled The Horse and Sparrows and Grass, Xu made the paintings during 1939-40, when he stayed at Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan and worked under Rabindranath Tagore.

The reprints were specially ordered by the Indian Council for Cultural Research (ICCR) from Xu’s collection at Santiniketan. Xu (1895-1953) was the first visiting professor from China to stay and work at the town where the Nobel laureate penned many of his classic poems and novels.

Tagore liked Xu’s work and it was the Indian poet who inspired the artist to come to India. An exhibition of around 150 of his paintings was held in Santiniketan in 1939.

“Xu, as a representative of Chinese art, was personally cherished by Rabindranath Tagore. Motivated to rebuild a cultural relation with China, in 1939 Tagore invited Xu to spend a productive tenure at Kala Bhavan (Santiniketan),” Ritwij Bhowmik of the department of humanities and social sciences at IIT-Kanpur wrote in a research paper on Xu’s connection with India.

“Overwhelmed by this, Xu arrived in Santiniketan in 1939 and later formulated his first exhibition at Visva Bharati University in December,” he wrote.

“Xu, immensely praised by Tagore for his fluid style, painted 10 portraits of the poet, among them one in oil and the others ink sketches,” he added.

Bhowmik wrote that Xu also met Mahatma Gandhi, which left a “considerable influence” on his psyche. “Later he wrote extensively about this meeting and also made a portrait of Gandhi,” he added.

Xi is known to have read Tagore and has quoted him on occasion.

According to Bhowmik, Xu’s tenure in India ended in December 1940, when he returned to Singapore for the annual exhibition of the Society of Chinese Artists.

Xu’s selected paintings, including portraits of Tagore and Yugong Removing the Mountain, were exhibited there. Xu’s work is also said to have inspired renowned painter MF Husain, who met him in Beijing in 1951. They met during one of the earliest cultural exchanges between India and China.

First Published: Apr 27, 2018 22:32 IST