Encountering Birds During My Travels

by Aurogeeta Das

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For the most part, Tagore did not paint real birds. Although he may have done so occasionally (and this would be conjecture on the part of scholars and viewers since to my knowledge, Tagore did not title his works), it might be reasonable to assume that the real birds he saw around him formed an impression.

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Certainly, India provides the avid bird watcher with ample opportunity to indulge in what the English call ‘twitching’, so named to describe the rapid turning of the bird-watcher’s head to follow the flutter and flight of large and little birds alike.

One cannot tell what kind of birds Tagore would have been painting had he lived for example, in Europe, Africa or in the Americas, or even whether they would have been any different. Did he watch birds, as I do? I have yet to discover whether he did. If an artist paints real birds figuratively, one might guess that the painter watched real birds, or even engaged beyond just watching, such as Audubon, who unfortunately even killed and stuffed real birds before painting them. However, there are some artists, like the American naturalist Charles (Charley) Harper, who relied extensively on photographs to paint real birds.

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But for those artists who do not paint real birds but rather draw upon their imagination, one wonders whether they were inspired by real birds? I can vouch for my own experience, which began by painting birds partly, I suspect, from memory and partly from imagination. Then, I started watching real birds to understand more about the bird form. As I watched birds with greater enthusiasm, I wanted to be better informed about the species of birds that I encountered during my travels. I also started photographing the birds I spotted, filing them away for future reference or perhaps hoping that they would permeate my subconscious. Once they percolated into my subconscious, I hoped to be able to draw upon them to arrive at a more confident line when tracing the bird form.

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Here, then, are some photographs of birds that I have taken during my travels in India and abroad. I assume that the most common Indian birds at least would have been observed by Tagore too? They were perhaps even absorbed into his subconscious from where he drew them out to create his bird paintings?

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One thought on “Encountering Birds During My Travels

  • September 12, 2015 at 11:47 am
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    A wonderful collection. Thank you.

    Reply

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