Journey’s End (1913): An Artistic Representation of British India?

A glance at Abanindranath Tagore’s painting- Journey’s End creates an unforgettable image in the minds of the viewers. There is a sense of pain and suffering emanating from the painting that is impossible to ignore. The image of a half-collapsed camel buried under tons of baggage evokes both curiosity as well as sympathy. As art is something that cannot be deciphered in seconds, let’s take a closer look at this masterpiece.

Abanindranath-tagore-painting
Journey's End Painting (1913) by Abanindranath Tagore

SUBJECT OF THE PAINTING


The entire painting focuses on a half-collapsed camel buried under loads of burden. It seems that the beast is tired of carrying the heavy load across a long distance. It is sunset (as indicated with shades of red, brown, and yellow in the background), and there is no hope of respite. The camel has to deliver the baggage where it is needed but has no place to take a rest. Dead with fatigue, it collapses on the ground, the colours of which have been darkened to intensify his pain. While it is on its knees with its hind legs are upright, its head is pointing upwards as if it is going to take another chance to get up. Its eyes further intensify his suffering and draw the attention of its admirers. There is also a thin stream of blood oozing out of his mouth which probably went unnoticed by his master who is blind with greed.


Overall the painting manifests the agony of a dumb animal that is being exploited relentlessly by its master. There is also a feeling of suspense- did the camel’s life journey come to an end, or was it successful in making another attempt at getting up? Does the title "journey’s end" signify the end of this particular journey or the end of the pain and suffering of the camel forever?

TECHNIQUE AND COLOUR PALETTE


This painting comes from the Bengal School of Art that was developed at the time of the Bengali Renaissance. Bengal School of Art is always incomplete without the mention of Abanindranath Tagore, who was instrumental in its establishment and promotion. Like most of his paintings, Journey’s End is also made using his novel technique evolved through the fusion of the Indian Tempera method and the Japanese Wash technique.


The colour palette used in the painting comprises only a few shades- red, brown, yellow in the background, and a tint of blue. The colours and the technique used creates a misty effect producing a romantic sentiment that is bound to remain etched in the minds of the viewers for a long time.

OUR INTERPRETATION


Although this artwork is quite clear in terms of what it seeks to represent i.e. the pain and misery of an animal that is incapable of freeing itself from the greedy clutches of its master, we wonder if there is a hidden message?


This painting was created in the year 1913, a time when India was under the British Raj. It was also the period when Indian artists and writers were gaining prominence internationally. For instance, in this year only, Abanindranath’s uncle, Rabindranath Tagore had won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his legendary book, Gitanjali. This was an era when Indians were working hard to revive their lost identity and devising ways of gaining freedom. Thus, it was the right time for Abanindranath Tagore to attract both culturally withdrawn Indians and the International audience to notice the plight of the country through the medium of Art.

Bringing our artistic and rational minds together, we feel that the half-collapsed camel is, in fact, a representation of Colonial India and its inhabitants. The choice of animal that Tagore’s painting focuses on is one that symbolises endurance, calmness, and adaptability. Similarly, Indians are known to have impeccable capabilities of patience and tolerance towards foreign forces that have, from time to time, exploited the country and its citizens. However, the colonial rule was different in the sense that it step-by-step dismantled the whole nation physically, culturally, and economically.


For decades, Indians suffered from the utter loss of identity and heavy exploitation in the hands of the Britishers that the country on a whole had become as miserable as the camel in the painting. While the hope of independence continued to beat in the hearts of the citizens, the dream of an Independent India seemed to be a blurry one. Similarly, in the painting Journey’s End, the desire of the collapsed animal to break free from his master and the heavy load it carries seems to be a tough battle. Moreover, the thin stream of blood coming out of the camel's mouth might also represent the indifferent attitude of the colonists towards the suffering of the people.

The painting and its possible message is surely a sad one but brings with it a hope of a brighter future that both this camel and the Indians of that age were longing for.


Akshita Rana Pratha

Author

Akshita Rana


0 comments

Recent Posts

See All