Acquired from the above circa 1993-94 by the current owner
N. Tuli, The Flamed Mosaic: Indian Contemporary Painting, Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd., Ahmedabad, 1997, illustration p. 48
L. Lal, My Brush with Art, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2005, illustration unpaginated
'As a painter, Patel adopts the role of the observer, never quite bridging the distance between himself and the people he represents. But, like the poet he is, he also carefully preserves the significant gestures, things, and scenes that, especially when frozen in time, evoke multiple layers of meaning.' (S. Bean, Midnight to the Boom, Painting in India after Independence, Thames & Hudson Ltd., London and Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts, 2013, p. 166).
The title of the painting refers to a road in central Bombay where Patel who was also a general practitioner had his clinic. Patel has said, that Off Lamington Road emerged as "a series of portraits, and one can see in the canvas a dozen individual studies... I had this feeling of space, each individual head could have a canvas to themselves, also this idea that man must be both part of the crowd and by himself." (K. Zitzewitz, 'The Moral Economy of the Street: The Bombay Paintings of Gieve Patel and Sudhir Patwardhan', Third Text, Michigan, 2009, pp. 154-155, 158)
Patel has also recently commented, “In the eighties I had for some time been thinking of doing a painting of a crowd in a Bombay street. Earlier I had done individual street figures, or a group of two or three persons. A visit to Italy became a catalyst to the idea. Everywhere I saw that the Italian painters had used the Crowd at the Foot of the Cross to depict a vivid gathering of their own countrymen. I was particularly affected by Pietro Lorenzetti's depiction of such a crowd. Back in Bombay, I straightaway started work on the painting. It would take four years to complete. Both the complexity of the work, and interruptions due to having to handle some inevitable problems of living contributed to this time lapse.
When I could work through, the figures seemed literally to flow out of the brush. Everything that I knew about the streets of my city came to my aid. In Bombay the street is an extension of home, and as we know, is sometimes the only home. The emotional range expressed by the crowd was intoxicating, from serene presence to happy camaraderie, to destitution and misery, all in close proximity to each other.
One final touch remained to be worked through. I kept feeling that I wanted to depict a flight of parakeets cutting horizontally across the painting somewhere. But wherever I thought of placing them they seemed wrong. Then I made an astonishing discovery -- at the upper right margin of the painting, the paint had left a large area of relatively unpainted surface, and this area simulated exactly the body of a parrot. Only, it would be a huge parrot, and it would be upside down, and would be appearing to be falling down from the skies, perhaps, perhaps to be received by the dancers in the street! This was a magical gift. A little filling in of the parrot's feathers, head, and beak, and the painting was complete.
And yes. The vertical shafts of the three buildings, the one in the centre, the two on the sides -- I couldn't but become aware of the three crosses -- the crucified Christ and the Two Thieves, even in their absence subliminally making their presence felt over the Crowd.” (Correspondence with the artist, August 2015)
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