Sabavala studied in Paris from 1947-1951 at the Academie Julian in the Impressionist tradition and in contrast also at the Academie André Lhote where he earnestly learnt about the Cubists. Through these teachings he evolved existing skills of an excellent draughtsman and colourist and developed his own sophisticated artistic voice. ‘If Sabavala has rejected all group affiliations, he has done so, not from arrogance, so much as from the simple desire to explore his truths alone, neither imposing his doctrines on others nor permitting others to impose their beliefs on him.’ (Ranjit Hoskote, Pilgrim, Exile, Sorcerer, The Painterly Evolution of Jehangir Sabavala, 1998, p. 20).
In 1957 Sabavala and his wife travelled to Florence where they were moved by Perugino's Fresco of the Crucifixion and the following year Sabavala produced his own Crucifixion series (1958-59). The taut figures executed with bold flat planes of colour juxtaposed within dark lines speak to an audience like stained glass windows set within a stark modernist church. Compared to the bright palette of his 1950s paintings this 1992 depiction of the Crucifixion is in much more subdued tones with subtle hues of colour soothingly washed between finer lines. The painting combines some compositional elements from Cubism layered with a play on light, fulfilling Sabavala's Impressionistic sensibilities. The result is a powerful, contemplative and elegant genre painting bearing the unmistakable imprint of Sabavala's brush.
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