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The Evanescent Enigmas: Remembering The Lesser Known Masters of Modern Indian Art
By Anandita Bhardwaj
17 Jun 2022
The history of Indian art is enriched by the legacies of several modernists who were acclaimed across the world and are now synonymous with Modern Indian Art. However, at the same time, it also bears the memories of many artists whose names are shrouded in obscurity in contemporary times. Instrumental in ushering in an era of a liberated visual idiom in 20th century India, these artists are today inconspicuous and barely known. As we approach the upcoming Modern Indian Art ‘Collectors Choice’ auction, here are some works to be showcased which were created by lesser-known artists who significantly contributed to the making of Modern Indian Art.
Lot 16: Untitled by Arup Das
This is an untitled work by artist Arup Das executed with oil on canvas.
Born in 1927, artist Arup Das was a revered figurative painter and muralist who was known for his devotion to depicting human figures. Working across mediums including oil and watercolour, the artist placed his figures in a socio-historical context and rendered them in a variety of shades on his canvases.
The artist exhibited his works in several shows in India and abroad during his lifetime. He was conferred with the National Award from the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1957 and the President's Silver Plaque in 1957. His works are in the collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, the Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi, and the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi. The artist passed away in 2004.
Lot 18: Untitled by Avinash Chandra
This painting was executed by artist Avinash Chandra during his visit to Kashmir in 1951. Executing his landscapes, mostly with watercolour and some with oil, like this painting, the artist created a large body of work during his stay. The presented work depicts Kashmir’s famous ‘Shikaras’ or houseboats.
Born in Shimla in 1931, artist Avinash Chandra first studied art at Delhi Polytechnic College. He was also a teacher at the institution for a few years and mentioned artists including Arpita and Paramjit Singh. Disenchanted by the art scene in India, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1956. Starting his career as a landscape painter, Avinash Chandra went through an important artistic shift during the late 1950s when he started to explore the imagery of the female form in his work.
At the age of twenty one, Avinash Chandra was the youngest artist to be granted a solo exhibition by the 'Delhi Silpi Chakra'. Winning an award at the first National Exhibition of Art held by Lalit Kala Akademi in 1955, Chandra also came to be the first Indian artist to participate in Documenta, Kassel, and also the first Indian artist to be represented at Tate Gallery, London.
Lot 26: Untitled by P.T. Reddy
This untitled still-life painting is a creation by P.T. Reddy, a multifaceted artist. Primarily working with painting, etching, and sculptures, he was also a trained muralist drawing inspiration from Rajput and Pahari miniature styles.
Born in 1915, P.T. Reddy defied objections from his family of farmers and followed his dream to be an artist. He joined the Sir J J School of Art with the help of a scholarship, and received his diploma in 1939. Six years before the formation of the famous Progressive Artists’ Group, P. T Reddy brought together six artists in 1941 to form a Bombay Contemporary India Artists,’ group branded ‘Young Turks.’ His diverse oeuvre included synthesised compositions of impressionist landscapes, still-life works, and expressionist and realistic portraits. Towards the seventies, his works became more abstracted, borrowing heavily from tantra and folk symbols. The artist was conferred with several awards including the Dolly Cursetjee award and awards from the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta and Andhra Pradesh Lalit Kala Akademi. In 1941, Reddy was made a fellow of the Sir J J School of Art.
Lot 29: Untitled by Homi Patel
Two abstract works by artist Homi Patel will be showcased in the upcoming auction.
Born in 1928 in Bombay, Homi Patel studied at the Sir J J School of Art. He also formed a group with his contemporaries K. Ambadas, Apollinario D'souza, and S.G. Nikam to champion an uncompromising abstract interpretation of art. With boldly abstract work, he remained fully committed to the non-representation of art throughout his career. The artist enjoyed a respected reputation as an Indian artist on international platforms and exhibited his works at several notable events including the Venice Biennale in 1954 and other shows in Zurich, Hamburg, and Tokyo. In India, his works are a part of the collection at reputed venues such as the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
Lot 30: Untitled by Sankho Chaudhuri
This untitled wood sculpture by artist Sankho Chaudhuri is also a part of the upcoming auction. This work is appearing in an auction for the first time.
A noted sculptor of the Bengal School of Art, Sankho Chaudhuri was born in 1915 and studied sculpture at Santiniketan. With an inclination toward abstraction, the artist rendered simple, flowing forms to his creations. The artist experimented with a variety of materials including clay, stone, terracotta, copper, brass, and aluminium throughout his career. Emanating a sense of lyrical rhythm, his sculptures often take a poised and graceful form.
Lot 34: Untitled by A.A. Almelkar
This is an untitled work by artist A.A. Almelkar. It was executed in the year 1957 with gouache on board.
Born in 1920 in Maharashtra, A.A. Almelkar began painting when he was merely seven years old. Completing his art education at the Sir J J School of Art, Almelkar developed his individualistic artistic style which was more traditional than his contemporaries with a lot of detailing and elements from miniature art tradition. His main interests were directed to figurative and naturalistic landscapes. Almelkar often travelled in the jungles of Vidarbha, (a district in Maharashtra) sketching birds, trees and what nature had to offer in sanctuaries and the colourful tribal people inhabiting those localities. He finger-painted as well as drew detailed outlines to his artwork using ink and other mediums.
Lot 35: Untitled by Sunil Madhav Sen
Appearing in an auction for the first time, this untitled work by artist Sunil Madhav Sen was executed with mixed media on wood.
Born in 1910, artist Sunil Madhav Sen was inspired to paint at the age of eight with an image of a household deity in his house. He started his career by depicting the picturesque landscapes of Santhal Hills and Bhutan and also incorporated folk art elements, tribal motifs, as well as profiles of women into his work. As his career progressed, he synthesised his two inspirations - women and nature, to find a distinct artistic expression.
Lot 36: Untitled work by Satish Sinha
This work is a unique example from the oeuvre of artist Satish Chandra Sinha, who is known to have been more inclined towards realism and perspective akin to the ideals of European naturalism. The rural woman depicted in this Pastel on paperwork is reminiscent of a Santhali woman, a theme that was widespread among the followers of the Bengal School of Art.
Satish Chandra Sinha was born in Calcutta in 1893 and studied under Percy Brown and J.P. Gangooly at the Government College of Art, of which he later became principal. Sinha followed the Western academic approach to art, emphasising perspective and realism in his work. His work differed from the prevailing trends of the Bengal School and, along with Atul Bose, adhered to the more traditional forms of painting, often depicting the female figure. Inspired by the works of Raja Ravi Varma, Sinha's strength lay in the rendering of the female figure.
Lot 45: Untitled by Amar Nath Sehgal
This creation by artist Amar Nath Sehgal is a set of 3 sculptures executed with bronze in the 1970s.
Born in Pakistan in 1922, Amar Nath Sehgal was a noted modernist sculptor from India who also enjoyed considerable success on international platforms. The artist shifted to India after the partition and eventually moved to New York in 1948 to study art at New York University. Preoccupied with the human condition and unjust atrocities around the world, Amarnath Sehgal created works that depicted the pain and sufferings of people affected by natural and manmade calamities such as famine, war, poverty, violence, and religious discrimination.
Lot 65: ‘Tamasha’ by Jai Zharotia
Titled ‘Tamasha’ this work by artist Jai Zharotia was executed with acrylic on canvas in the year 2004.
Born in 1945 to a family of Rajasthani artists, Jai Zharotia studied at Delhi College of Art. His paintings test the viewer and play tricks on our senses. Zharotia made every single element in his paintings undergo a constant process of reconstruction and reinterpretation within themselves as well as within the confines of our minds. His works were executed with mixed media most of the time, combining tempera and pencils with watercolours. His paintings also have almost surreal two-colour backgrounds, and even the play of light and shadow he uses in them is not confined by any physical laws, just like the subject of his works.
This Collectors’ Choice Auction presents a splendid opportunity for both seasoned and budding collectors to build a stunning collection. Bidding for all artworks in this auction will commence at Rs 20,000.
Please visit the AstaGuru website to browse the auction catalogue and register to bid today.