Rabindranath Tagore’s love of nature was profound. For him the wide-open skies, spaciousness, and tranquility of the countryside symbolized freedom. His paintings of nature are evocative, filled with a sense of mystery and longing, often depicting large, old trees by a river—as K. G. Subramanyan (a noted contemporary artist, born in 1924, who studied and taught at Santiniketan) described, “haunting woodlands with a textured filigree of pen hatchings and squiggles, or dark and somber trees silhouetted against a jewellike sunset.” The luxuriant woodlands surrounding Santiniketan, where Tagore lived and built a school and university system, were his inspiration. At Santiniketan classes were held outdoors, because he believed that “nature [is] the greatest of all teachers” and that “children should be surrounded with the things of nature which have their own educational value.”
The fact that Tagore chose to leave his pictures untitled was also an expression of freedom; they were open-ended and free of narrative, allowing the viewer to build his or her own interpretations. He believed that his paintings, like nature, were expressions of freedom, which could not be confined within the scope of words.
Rabindranath Tagore. Untitled, c.1935–36.