London, June 16 A dozen works of art by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore fetched a record 1.6 billion pounds at an auction by Sotheby's on Tuesday. The pre-sale estimates of the works were 250,000 pounds.
The works, belonging to the Dartington Hall Trust in Devon were dated 1938. They were gifted by Tagore to his old friend Leonard Elmhirst and his wife, American heiress Dorothy Whitney Elmhirst, who owned the estate and set up the trust.
An untitled portrait of a woman that was estimated at 40,000 pounds sold for 313,250 pounds, which included the hammer price and the buyer's premium. Another untitled composition of a lady with a fan estimated at 30,000 pounds was sold at 103,250 pounds while another untitled figure with green background, priced at 40,000 pounds, fetched 133,250 pounds.
Sotheby's charges a fee, known as the buyer's price, for every art work sold, which is added to the winning bid or the hammer price to arrive at the exact post-sale estimate of an artwork.
An untitled landscape by the Nobel Laureate with a pre-sale price of 15,000 pounds sold for 97,250 pounds while another landscape in yellow went for 91,250 pounds against a pre-sale tag of 20,000 pounds.
The last time a work by Tagore was auctioned was in March, 2008 when Sotheby's put the "Death Scene" for sale. It went for 120,000 pounds, setting a record for a work by him.
The works were a blend of figurative drawings and landscapes in mixed media, gouache, water colour, crayons and coloured inks in the Nobel Laureate's trademark modern expressionistic style with impressionist influence that reflected the distinct course he was charting in art in an era dominated by the European aesthetic language.
Tagore, known for his doodles and etchings, had created a body of more than 2,500 art works from 1924 to 1941.
Sources at Sotheby's said the "the prices at the auction marked a return of buoyancy in the auction market after a period of lull".
Commenting on the Tagore's lot on sale, Holly Blackberry, deputy director of Indian Art at Sotheby's said: "Bringing the 12 museum-quality paintings by one of the key modern masters of Indian painting has been a privilege."
"Together, they form a stand-put group and all of them have an impeccable provenance of having been in the possession of Dartington Hall most of their life. Given their exemplary history and the Tagore's status as one of India's most illustrious heritage artist, the sale was an once-in-a-lifetime acquisition opportunity," Blackberry added.
New auction price records were also set Avinash Chandra and Somnath Hore.
The current set of 12 works will return to Darlington Hall for a brief while when they will be on exhibit during the Tagore Festival May 1-7, 2011 to commemorate Tagore's 150th birth anniversary. This is one of the events the Trust has planned to celebrate the occasion.
It is not known when and how Tagore came to gift these works to the Elmhirsts, but Tagore's ties with the Trust are well documented. Leonard Elmhirst was a close friend of Tagore after the pair met in the U.S. while Leonard was attending Cornell University. After graduating in 1921, Leonard travelled to India to work as Tagore's private secretary.
He not only travelled the world with Tagore, but also created a department for rural reconstruction on an estate belonging to the Tagore family. His experiences of India and the abiding influence of the Indian artist would shape his vision for the educational, social and rural experiment he and his wife Dorothy created at Dartington a few years later.
Tagore visited Dartington on a number of occasions and, in addition to his paintings, Dartington holds a huge archive of photographs, letters and other ephemera relating to the artist and his relationship with Dartington, all of which will remain part of Dartington's extensive archives.