This work from 1956 belongs to Ram Kumar's early figurative phase. His works from this period not only reflect his disillusionment with the monotony and anonymity of urban existence but are also part of a larger commentary on the unrealized promises of Independence which had held hope for a better life for millions of Indians but failed to deliver to most. The figures he depicts in these paintings are reminiscent of the forlorn characters he portrays in his novel, Ghar Bane Ghar Toote. These figures depict the isolated and despairing urbanites of India who feel constrained by the city itself, its vast faceless population and the poverty and decay that surround them. 'Somewhat marionette-like and angularly stanced with half gestures that seem to clutch at something precious, the boldly but starkly portrayed people [are] related to one another because of the pervading quality of introspection, of a searching for meaning, purpose, release which is written large on their countenances.' (Richard Bartholomew, "Attitudes to the Social Condition: Notes on Ram Kumar," Lalit Kala Contemporary 24-25, 1981, p. 31).
In these early works Ram Kumar perfected an 'elegiac figuration imbued with the spirit of tragic modernism. Infused with an ideological fervour, he drew equally upon exemplars like Courbet, Rouault, Kathe Kollwitz and Edward Hopper dedicating himself to the creation of an iconography of depression and victimhood ... To this period belong those lost souls: the monumental Picassoesque figures packed into a darkened picture-womb, the bewildered clerks, terrorized workers and emaciated doll-women trapped in industrial city. Rendered through a semi-cubist discipline and memoralised in paintings like 'Sad Town' and 'Hidden Sorrow', these fugitives are trapped in a hostile environment and in their own divided selves." (Ranjit Hoskote, "The Poet of the Visionary Landscape," in Ram Kumar, A Journey Within, Vadehra Art Gallery, 1996, p. 37). The soulful stares of the two seated figures in the present work echo their vulnerability as they are hemmed in, almost trapped, by the walls of the bleak city.
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