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Behind the Masks of ModernismGlobal and Transnational Perspectives$
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Andrew Reynolds and Bonnie Roos

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813061641

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813061641.001.0001

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Rabindranath Tagore’s Mysterious Faces and India’s Encounter with Modernism

Rabindranath Tagore’s Mysterious Faces and India’s Encounter with Modernism

(p.24) 1 Rabindranath Tagore’s Mysterious Faces and India’s Encounter with Modernism
Behind the Masks of Modernism

Aida Yuen Wong

University Press of Florida

This chapter is a transnational study that draws into focus the globalized modernist dialogue between artistic traditions. This dialogue is invited through both Wong’s investigation of the little known paintings, drawings and collages, rather than poetry, of Rabindranath Tagore. Rather than connecting Tagore with the Western traditions in which he was sometimes immersed, Wong explores the influence of the Japanese mask on the construction of a regional Indian Modernism, with particular emphasis on the Bengal School. She also investigates the Tagore family’s collection of Japanese noh theatre masks on display in the Rabindranath family home and the incorporation of mask themes in Abanindranath Tagore’s paintings and plays, which would have been known to Rabindranath Tagore. As Wong explains, this dynamic led to comparisons between Tagore’s work and more westernized strains of modernism, including Surrealism and Symbolism, as the artist travelled through Europe gaining popularity. But Wong traces Rabindranath Tagore’s Bengali modernism as an artistic persona, one that, in light of imperialism and the orientalizing of the West, becomes a mask that strategically subverted, and at other times espoused Western and Eastern modernities.

Keywords:   Rabindranath Tagore, Modernism, India, Japan, Orientalism, Bengal School, Noh Theatre, Indian Modernism

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