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Divine Figures And Folklore: Mythology As An Inspiration In Indian Art
By Anandita Bhardwaj
27 Dec 2022
Religion has always been an integral part of Indian society and consequently has been a quintessential theme in Indian art through the course of time. Revered artists from both pre-modern and modern eras have consistently adapted mythological motifs and have depicted religious figures, fables, and folklore in their art. The collection for AstaGuru’s upcoming ‘Historical Masterpieces’ auction will present some exquisite works that are inspired by the tenets of religious philosophy. Here are some of these works.
Lot no. 1: Untitled ‘Radha and Krishna’ by Hemendranath Mazumdar
Appearing in an auction for the first time, this masterpiece by Hemendranath Mazumdar depicting the immortal image of Radha & Krishna showcases the brilliant confluence of the artist’s motivation; in terms of technique and subject matter. While Hemendranath Mazumdar did not subscribe to the philosophy and technical aspects of Orientalist art and remained committed to western realist techniques, his subjects were rooted in the ethos of Indian culture. Employing the effects of chiaroscuro and reflected light, the artist painted the night scene of Radha and Krishna in an arboraceous setting. While the hour of their union is implied by the dim background, the moonlight’s reflection can be observed on the surface of the water. Radha & Krishna’s divinity is pronounced and celebrated by the manner in which their respective countenances radiate, hereby illuminating the image and instilling an aura of the ethereal. As Krishna leans to comfort and embrace Radha, her sombre and innocent expression communicates the challenge she encounters as she attempts to play the flute.
Lot no. 21: ‘Doubting Thomas With Jesus by Krishen Khanna
The Biblical theme is a recurring subject in Krishen Khanna’s oeuvre. Especially his Doubting Thomas series constitutes to be amongst his most sought after works inspired from the teachings of the Bible. The presented lot is the first painting that the master had executed as part of the said series. Created in 1978 the oil on canvas painting depicts Christ showing his wounds which are shrouded. The character of doubting Thomas not only speaks about man’s nature of losing faith under duress but is even more relevant considering St. Thomas arrived in Kerala even before Christianity had gained prominence in Europe. As per studies he reached the coastal region in the year 52 AD. Thomas was infamous for having doubted the Resurrection of Jesus and for not being convinced until Christ gave him physical proof of his wounds. The phrase ‘doubting Thomas’ got associated with the apostle for his lack of faith. However, when Jesus showed him the wounds, St. Thomas became the first person to explicitly acknowledge the divinity of Jesus, and went on to preach the word of God outside the Roman Empire.
Lot no. 29: Untitled (Bastusaap) by Bikash Bhattacharjee
The presented lot was executed in 1997, burning bright on the ground in its bejewelled disposition, the glowing golden serpent is a representation of the ‘Nag’ or king “The scene in front of you is part of a larger one. You know something just happened and that there is more to follow.” Cobra, venerated as a deity and in Bengali culture as bastusaap, a common folk household serpent. At the same time, the diamond studded in its crown alludes to the mythical fable of ‘Nagmani,’ the rarest and most miraculous gem that can cure any disease or anomalies. The image theatrically poses the agile slithering snake on the luminescent floor against a pair of feet, betokened of a female figure, ensconced with gleaming anklets. The decade of the 1990s was a significant time in the artist’s life, both personally and artistically. Owing to his stay at Santiniketan in the initial years, his idiom had absorbed the elements of rural living and his compositions began to depict the bestial forms. This work is a brilliant example of the visual twists that Bikash Bhattacharjee bestowed on his canvases during these twilight years of his life.
Avant-Garde works from the oeuvre of India’s eminent modernists will be showcased in AstaGuru’s upcoming ‘Historic Masterpieces’ Modern Indian Art Auction scheduled on December 27-28, 2022. The finely curated catalogue presents a fine selection of 35 works by 19 artists including Hemendranath Mazumdar, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Jehangir Sabavala, M.F. Husain, Akbar Padamsee, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Krishen Khanna, Jogen Chowdhury, Prabhakar Barwe, K.G. Subramanyan, Ram Kumar, J. Swaminathan, Somnath Hore, Himmat Shah, Satish Gujral, N.S Bendre, K.K. Hebbar, Nicholas Roerich. Several of these works are appearing in an auction for the first time. Please visit our website to view the entire catalogue and register for bidding.
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