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Reminiscing The Legacy of Lesser-Known Masters of Modern Indian Art
By Anandita Bhardwaj
28 Apr 2022
The horizon of Modern Indian Art is dotted with numerous bright stars whose legacy continues to be reminisced and cherished. At the same time, there are also artists whose names have faded from the mass consciousness through the passage of time. The Two upcoming auctions by AstaGuru will present works from some of these lesser-known artistic gems of India. With their extraordinary talent and relentless creativity, these artistic visionaries created a foundation for Modern Indian Art and set it on the path of great glory. Here are some of the artists and their works which will be showcased in the upcoming auctions.
António Xavier Trindade
A master portraitist from Goa, Antonio Xavier Trindade created striking compositions with the use of layered, multiple glazes of colour that rendered an almost life-like texture to his canvas. He was equally adept at using light to create emotion, mood and drama. His paintings possessed an eloquent balance of light and dark which added a distinct depth to his subject’s character. There exists a harmony of hues in his oil paintings that has led some people to dub him as ‘Rembrandt of the East.’
A replica of La Source by Adolphe William Bouguereau, the presented lot was painted by Antonio Xavier Trindade while studying at Sir JJ.School of Art. The institution often emulated European masters of academic tradition and used them as models of excellence. By relying on reproductions of works by stalwarts like Ingres or Bouguereau, students could learn proportions, shading and colouring of the female human body. This training evidently plays out in Trindade’s career as he portrays his female subjects with the intimate sensitivity of someone who has studied and understood the grace of the female form.
An early twentieth-century painter, Hemendranath Mazumdar is widely-known for his sensuous depiction of the female form. Trained in the academic style of painting, Mazumdar often portrayed his subjects engaged in leisurely activities such as bathing or daydreaming. These paintings combined the elements of Western Classicism with the Indian tradition and completely changed the way women were depicted in Indian art.
A distinct characteristic of Mazumdar’s paintings was the delicate intimacy through which he peered into the depth of his subject’s character. Mazumdar won several accolades during his career and was awarded a number of high-profile commissions. Many of his works created during this period still hang in the palaces of princely states including Jodhpur and Bikaner.
Presented in the upcoming ‘Masters Legacy’ auction is a Portrait of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru by Hemendranath Mazumdar. Nehru, being a prolific leader who charted the course for Indian freedom, was a great inspiration to artists at the time. Mazumdar’s rendition of Nehru executed in the academic realist style shows his reverence for the late Prime Minister.
Born in 1923, Pilloo Pochkhanawala graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Bombay University. Initially an advertising professional, she started her career as a sculptor relatively late in her life, at the age of twenty-eight, after a business trip to Europe in 1951. Pilloo Pochkhanawala visited various museums during her travels and has been quoted as being ‘’struck by a visual bolt’’ by the works of modern sculptors.
The magnetism she felt toward sculptures led her to become a pioneer in the male-dominated world of Indian art. Pilloo Pochkhanawala’s early works were inspired by the British sculptor, Henry Moore. The innate vitality of Moore’s figures deeply resonated with her which she incorporated into her wood sculptures of seated Indian women.
Known for their organic quality, Pilloo Pochkhanawala rendered her works with a rhythmic smoothness. She had a distinct mastery over form and strategically used negative space to give her works a dynamic appeal. Exploring the boundaries between time, space and nature, the artist experimented with a variety of materials. She learned the techniques of welding which gave her the freedom to express her creativity, thus bridging the gap between the concept and its physical manifestation.
The upcoming ‘Masters Legacy’ Modern Indian Art auction presents a large-scale work by the artist sculpted from gleaming teakwood. She handles the wood with refined grace, contorting and folding it to conceive an exquisite, flowing form.
A celebrated Sikh artist of his time, artist Sobha Singh was born in 1901 in undivided Punjab. He started painting in his early youth without the guidance of any master. The artist was present at the Jallianwala Bagh ground during the historic massacre. Later, he joined the British India army as a draughtsman and was posted at various places in Iraq. He studied European paintings and was also influenced by the works of English painters. After leaving the army in 1923, he returned to Amritsar and opened an art studio. In 1926, the artist moved to Lahore which was then the capital of Punjab. There, he set up a studio called “The Echo School of Art.” He moved to Delhi after five years in 1931 for better artistic prospects. He lived between Delhi and Lahore before moving to Andretta village in Himachal Pradesh in 1947. The artist was inspired by the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and they became the principal theme of his paintings. He also painted the famous love legends of Punjab Sohni-Mahiwal which brought him recognition. Creating works spanning genres like landscape, love legends, and portraits of prophets, saints and national heroes, Sobha Singh dedicated his life to art.
The upcoming ‘Collectors Choice’ auction presents an untitled portrait by the artist. The work was executed in 1980 with oil on board.
P A Dhondh
A master landscapist, Prahlad Anant Dhond was one of the most remarkable watercolour artists India has ever seen. The surrounding landscape of his birthplace town of Ratnagiri had the most formative influence on him in his early life. He was drawn to the slow and romantic changes in his landscape as a young boy and would later emulate them in his work.
Even though he started as a portrait artist, Dhond was soon inspired by the works of Russel Flint, whose watercolour depictions of seascapes instantly captivated his artistic sensibility. With the surrounding nature as his muse, Dhond set out on a path that would turn the course of his artistic career.
Dhond’s landscapes emanate an essence of intimacy and longing. He depicted nature in its varying moods through the soft and transparent use of watercolours as a medium. The austerity of his palette renders a gentle luminosity to his work and conveys a sense of oneness with his environment. About his work, he says, "I feel like a child at my heart for whom this world is a novelty."
His career spans over seven decades and consists of over 7000 paintings. He became the dean of Sir.J.J.School of art in 1958 which was also his alma mater and was loved by all his students. He is said to have an ever-smiling personality and was fondly known as Babu, Dhond sir and Bhai.
Presented in the upcoming ‘Collectors Choice’ Auction is a set of two works by the artist.
Founder of ‘The Unknown,’ group, artist Rajendra Dhawan was born in 1936 and studied at the Delhi School of Art from 1953-58. He eventually also enrolled in the Belgrade institute of art and travelled to Yugoslavia on a grant. In 1970 he moved to Paris. Working mainly in oil, nearly all his canvases are subtle and poetic. He painted according to his intuition rather than what he saw. His themes included space, air and other occult objects. His works can be seen in several public collections such as The Glenbarra Museum in Japan, and The National Foundation of Contemporary Art in Paris amongst others.
The upcoming ‘Collectors Choice’ auction presents an untitled work by the artist. The work was executed in 1998 with oil on canvas.
Two works by European artist Horace Van Ruith will also be showcased. A prolific artist who specialised in landscapes, portraits and genre scenes in an academic style, he was profoundly impacted by his visit to India in the 1880s. The travel hugely influenced his artistic sensibilities and laid the foundations of his critically-acclaimed series of Oriental paintings.
The upcoming ‘Masters Legacy’ auction will present a work by the artist titled ‘Italian Girl With Puppy.’ The work depicts a young girl casually resting by the side of, what appears like a wooden table. She is tenderly holding a puppy in her arms, as she gazes at the painter with an expression that communicates the innocence of childhood layered with a subtle essence of patience and tenacity. The girl’s overall appearance and her surroundings tell us that she comes from a humble, peasant household which is also conveyed by the maturity reflected in her eyes.
Unveiling the Avant-Garde of Modern Indian Art, the ‘Masters Legacy’ auction will be held on April 29-30, 2022.
The ‘Collectors Choice’ Modern Indian Art auction is scheduled for May 2-3, 2022. Bidding for all artworks in this auction will commence at INR 20,000.