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The Shining Stars: Celebrating The Gems of Modern Indian Art
By Anandita Bhardwaj
14 Jun 2022
The legacy of Indian art thrives on the oeuvre of some exceptional artists who have created a harmony of visual expression with their extraordinary works. In an ode to the mastery of nine such artistic geniuses, the government of India named them the 'Navratnas of Indian Art' in 1972 and heralded their works as national treasures. These artists were Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Sher-Gil, Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Sailoz Mookherjea, and Nicholas Roerich. Works from six of these artists will be appearing in AstaGuru’s upcoming Modern Indian Art ‘Collectors Choice’ Auction. Let's take a look at these works.
Lot 7: ‘Bird’ by Rabindranath Tagore
Titled ‘Bird,’ it is a creation by Rabindranath Tagore, executed with ink on brown paper.
The first Asian and Indian to win the prestigious Nobel Prize for his great English composition ‘Geetanjali,’ Rabindranath Tagore continues to be recognised as the most important Indian artist globally. A poet, song composer, novelist, essayist, and painter, Rabindranath Tagore’s contribution to art was multifaceted. Although he started painting at the age of 60, his awareness and drive for beauty were intrinsic, and he explored the various possibilities of visual expressions. His artworks emanated confidence and surety despite his lack of formal training.
Works by Nandalal Bose
The upcoming auction will present several works (lot no. 8,9,10,11, and 12) from the eminent artist of the Bengal School of art, Nandalal Bose.
A pupil of Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose emerged to be a key figure, known for pioneering contextual modernism in Indian art. Born in Tarapur, Munger district of Bihar, in 1882, he moved to Calcutta in 1897 for his education and studied art at the Government School of Art in Calcutta in 1905. He was appointed as the principal at the Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan by Rabindranath Tagore in 1922. Being greatly involved with an international group of artists, he was influenced by Japanese artists such as Okakura Kakuzo and Yokoyama Taikan, along with modernist sculptors like Eric Gill and Jacob Epstein. His works include scenes from Indian mythology, iconography, the female form, as well as rural influences. He was also deeply influenced by the murals of the Ajanta caves.
Works by Jamini Roy
Four works by artist Jamini Roy (lot no. 1,2,3, and 4) are being showcased in the upcoming auction
Jamini Roy was born in 1887 in the Beliatore village of West Bengal. He studied art in the technique of British academic realism at the Government Art School in Calcutta. His early career flourished in painting landscapes and portraits. However, with the change in the landscape of cultural expression in Bengal Roy grew disenchanted. He gave up the medium of oil in favour of natural traditional pigments from vegetable and mineral sources and started to paint on different surfaces. He found his muse in the simplistic styles and traditions of the Kalighat style of painting, which were commonly sold outside the Kalighat temple in Calcutta. Adapting a ‘flat style,’ he painted people and scenes from rural India. His unique linear modernist style with the use of bold colours like yellow, blue, green, red, and white brought a complete reinterpretation of Indian iconography.
Lot 13: Untitled work by Sailoz Mookherjea
This abstract landscape comes from the oeuvre of artist Sailoz Mookherjea, who is regarded as one of the pioneers of Indian Modernism. Executed with oil on board, this work was published in the book ‘Trends & Tradition: Eighty Glorious Years’ by Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi, in 2017.
Sailoz Mookherjea’s style was founded upon the fundamentals of simplistic forms and fluid lines with dynamic elements. Inspired by Henri Matisse’s work during his travels in Europe, Sailoz Mookherjea also drew influence from the work ethics of Basohli miniatures and the Bengal School. His artistic themes amalgamate nature and rural scenes with bold lines and an empowering colour palette. His works emphasise colour over form and render a high degree of expression and movement to his protagonists. Mookherjea’s later landscape compositions illustrate a shift towards a complete disregard of form and the signifying function of the line, in favour of arbitrary scribbles and intermingling colours.
Lot 5: Untitled work by Nicholas Roerich
Appearing in an auction for the first time is a majestic work by Nicholas Roerich. Fondly called the ‘Master of Mountains,’ Roerich was pre-eminently a symbolic painter, one whose hues of sapphire and clandestine clouds of white will forever be etched as magnificent representations of the Himalayan range. This work was executed circa 1940.
Nicholas Roerich’s tryst with India began during his childhood when he came across a portrait of a majestic mountain range that enthralled him. He eventually found out that it was a painting of Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, and knew that it was where he had to be. A great artist, scholar, writer, and humanitarian, his legacy of works and inimitable ideology to date awaits a predecessor of his stature. His colour compositions and vivid imagery were all derivatives of a mind that perceived much more than what meets the eye.
Lot 6: ‘A Farkas Khan Leanya (The Daughter Of The Wolf Khan)’ by Amrita Sher-Gil
This work was executed with watercolour on paper in the year 1928 when Amrita Sher-Gil was merely 15 years old.
One of the greatest avant-garde women artists of the early 20th century, Amrita Sher-Gil single-handedly put Indian art on a global platform. A prodigious artist, Amrita Sher-Gil continues to rule the hearts of art lovers with a large body of work that she created before her untimely death in 1941. Born in Hungary in 1913, the artist started to draw at an early age. At the age of sixteen, she joined the prestigious Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris, where she won several accolades including a gold medal at the Grand Salon. She was also the youngest and the only Asian member ever to join the Salon.
Scheduled on June 23-24, 2022, 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.