This bust of the Indian poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore is in my favourite London square. It is Dorset Square, Bloomsbury and I love it because it looks a little wilder than most, the plants here are not quite under control. In the spring it is full of bluebells. Discrete notices around the square tell visitors about the different species of these beautiful flowers and about famous local residents. There are photos, busts like this one and even some Sarsen stone (one of the types of stone that was used to build Stonehenge).

Tagore was not a local resident as far as I know. His bust was unveiled by Prince Charles in 2011 and was sculpted by Shenda Amery, an Anglo Iranian artist whose studio is in Chelsea. Among the other commissions she has received are a bronze of John Major and a painting of Tony Blair.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature. That was in 1913 for a collection of poems called the Gitanjali. He was born in Calcutta to a wealthy, artistic family. His father wanted him to become a barrister and Rabindrath came to England to study. He lived in Brighton and enrolled at University College London in 1878 but he did not complete the course. He was more interested in music, especially folksongs and in literature. On his return to Bengal he helped manage the family estates and wrote short stories, essays and poetry. He was an innovator using colloquial language in his work. He founded schools. He hated the rote learning that was common practice at the time, instead his schools had gurus to give students a more personal type of instruction and guidance. He was concerned about the poverty he saw in India and about the dire situation of the Dalit caste, the so called untouchables. George V knighted him by Tagore returned the knighthood in protest after the Amritsar massacre. He was in favour of Indian independence from Britain and was admired by Mahatma Gandhi.

The plaque showing where he lived for a while is from the Vale of Health in Hampstead (great name for a beautiful secret place) where he stayed for a few months in 1912. It was the third time he had visited Britain. While staying here he showed the Gitanjali to a friend, the artist and writer, Sir William Rothenstein. He showed it to WB Yeats who Yeats wrote an introduction to the book in 1913. After receiving Nobel Prize Tagore travelled widely giving lectures; in Europe, Japan, and other parts of east Asia. the USA and South America.

HAMPSTEAD WALKING TOUR : I will be doing my Artists Hampstead on Saturday 24th and 31st October and on Sunday 1st November. The weather forecast is OK. These will probably be the last dates for the tour this year. Details and booking on the Tours 2020 page of my website.


About the author: Gail Jones