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Collecting Gems of Indian Modernism
By Simone Mody
18 Jun 2021
The Milestones of Modern Indian Art
Our upcoming ‘Collectors Choice: Modern Indian Art’ auction, dated 25th & 26th June, 2021, presents an opportunity for art collectors to get their hands on some of the gems of Indian Modernism. With more than 50% of the lots making their auction debut, the catalogue boasts of a sizable number of works coming directly from the collection of seasoned art patrons.
The prestigious and distinguished provenance, further enhances the value to these artworks that already represent crucial phases from their creators’ artistic journeys. Adding such works to one’s collection holistically ember the stories of our Modern Masters’ artistic evolution.
Let’s have a look at some of these offerings from our Collectors Choice auction.
• Lot 7: Amrita Sher-Gil’s Az Edeny Emberek Lakohelyu (The vessel is the abode of the people)
Making its auction debut, this watercolor work by Amrita Sher- Gil, one of the most important pioneers of Modern Art in India — was executed in the year 1923 when she was only 10 years old. A statement of the artist’s prodigious talent, Az Edeny Emberek Lakohelyu (The vessel is the abode of the people) (Lot 7) showcases Sher-Gil’s astonishing understanding of colours and depth. This artwork was created by the artist while she was in India, most possibly, Simla.
Lot 11: Hemendranath Mazumdar’s Untitled (New Market)
Another important artwork in this auction is Untitled (New Market) (Lot 11) by the renowned early 20th century Bengali painter Hemendranath Mazumdar. This gouache on board landscape of Calcutta's renowned New Market is a departure from the artist’s trademark oil paintings of women, usually bathing or draped in a wet saree. The artwork, painted Circa- 1925, also bears a rich provenance, as it was originally in the collection of eminent Art Critic, Samir Das Gupta.
Lot 15 and Lot 29: Prabhakar Barwe’s Untitled and Ivory Eyes, respectively
These two artworks by Prabhakar Barwe demonstrate the variants of the artist's creative process. While the Untitled (Lot 15) work from the year 1966 showcases his art design sensibility for textiles, the enamel on canvas work, titled Ivory Eyes (Lot 29), which is also on the cover of the auction catalogue represents the artist’s signature, abstract-symbolist style. The painting from the year 1976 is a testament to Barwe’s stylistic approach that was preoccupied with a correlation between space and form, the essence of colour, and the interchangeable realities of the concrete within the realm of the perceived abstract.
*Untitled (Lot 15) – Prabhakar Barwe was associated with the Weavers Service Centre, this gouache, pen, and ink on paper work, was created as a design, submitted in Bombay, dated 1966, design no. 477/77, Art Designer marked – Bar.
Lot 109: M.F. Husain’s Untitled
One of the most exciting lots in this auction, lot 109 is a rare set of four watercolour on mount board creations by M F Husain. This lot is accompanied with a set of 4 limited edition posters, circa 1985, which were reproduced based on the presented works. These master files, which are marking their presence in an auction for the first time, delineate Husain’s fascination with religious motifs. The lot also boasts of a rich provenance, as these artworks were directly acquired by the current owner from the artist.
Lot 113: Ram Kumar’s Untitled
This important oil on canvas work, circa 1999, by Ram Kumar, is an exceptional painting from the Modern Master’s oeuvre. Known to have ditched figurativism for abstraction, this painting (Lot 113) marks his revisit to the former style during a more mature phase of his practice. Even though Kumar started with figurative works during the early 1950s, he seldom, through the course of his practice, revisited figurative style works, thus making this work unique in its own right. The lot was directly acquired by the present collector from the artist.
Lot 115: Jehangir Sabavala’s The Festival
Jehangir Sabavala’s The Festival (Lot 115), circa 1942, was the artist’s third-year submission while he was studying at Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai. The artwork is a testament to the artist's formative phase of artistic training in India. This gouache on paper shows the 20-year-old Sabavala’s mastery over detailing, as seen through the proportions of the figures, and his exposure to Indian sensibilities before his European training in later years.
Other notable lots include
Lots 1 – 6: The first 6 lots of the catalogue showcase the various styles of Jamini Roy, ranging from Western Portraiture & landscape, to his invented Bengali Folk paintings, inspired by the Kalighat Pat style.
Lot 62: Lalu Prasad Shaw’s Nabakumar (Ed: 1/5) and Babu Resting - I
This is a set of two works consisting of a tempera on paper work and a bronze sculpture of the painting by Lalu Prasad Shaw. The lot presents art enthusiasts with a rare insight into the inner workings of the artist, who translated the same subject in two distinct dimensions. With one probably serving as a reference for the other, this set (Lot 62) is a rare offering that adds layers to one’s collection. Further, the painting captures Shaw’s signature style of depicting pleasant scenes from Bengali middle-class society.
Lot 82: Paritosh Sen’s House Of Banaras
The painting, circa 1958, is important early oil on plyboard work by Paritosh Sen. The lot, which describes a scene of a house in Varanasi, represents the period in Sen’s practice during which he became acquainted with Western techniques but was yet to carve out his signature style. Later on, the artist would become renowned for his vibrant caricatures, reminiscent of cubism, with strong lines and stylised strokes.
Lot 112: Untitled sketch by the master abstractionist, VS Gaitonde showcases his figurative style.
Born out of a cross-cultural curiosity, Indian Modernism can be characterised as an eclectic assimilation of Western techniques with Indian tradition and temperament in the backdrop of schismatic socio-political events. Our objective with the Collectors Choice: Modern Indian Art auction is to present collectors with artworks which truly define Indian Modernism’s search for artistic identity. Each artist expressed their distinct visual language through their work.
Hence, each Modern artist’s oeuvre can trace the journey of Modernism in India, it’s the presented experimental & intermediary works by these artists that truly showcase the Modernist spirit of experimentation.
The auction will also include works by the doyens such as F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, K. K. Hebbar, M. F. Husain, Jamini Roy, T. Vaikuntam, Tyeb Mehta, and Prabhakar Barwe among others. The bidding starts at Rs. 20,000, all lots offered without a Reserve Price.