Lot 40
  • 40

Krishen Khanna (b. 1925)

80,000 - 120,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Krishen Khanna
  • Untitled
  • Signed 'K. Khanna' on reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 61 3/4 by 37 3/4 in. (157 by 96 cm.)

Catalogue Note

In 1948 Krishen Khanna exhibited a painting titled The News of Gandhiji's Death at the Bombay Art Society's Golden Jubilee Exhibition. According to the artist the painting was the catalyst for his association with the Progressive Artists Group. He states, 'Palsikar insisted it be shown at the Golden Jubilee Exhibition of the Bombay Society. I feared its rejection but was surprised to find it hanging among a group of paintings of the Progressive Artists Group. Thus began my long association with those artists.'

The association with the Progressive Artist Group had a direct impact on the early work of Krishen Khanna, he kept up a close correspondence with many artists, especially Husain and later Ram Kumar.  By the mid 1950s the figurative works of  Kumar and Khanna reveal startling similarities and at least in terms of content his works reflect some of Husain's concerns as well, but by the early 1960s, once he had given up his career in banking, he began painting with a renewed conviction which became stronger as the decade progressed. 

In 1969 Khanna began a series of works on Ché Guevara that can be seen as part of a broader theme of marginalization that begins to appear in his work.  Images with a focus on death and suffering continue into his work of the early 1970s reflecting the turbulence of the times, in part inspired by the Bangladesh war.  The 1971 series Concerning a Drowned Girl , inspired by Brecht's poem, The End,1972 and the Dead and the Dying, all appear within a few years.  The current work although undated shows stylistic similarities to these works and appears to be from roughly this period.  A work titled Draped Nude from 1972 has a similarly shrouded head and compositional form and the current lot may have been inspired by images of roadside refugees from the Bangladesh War.

'Krishen's phase of involvement with the theme of social realism coincided with his activist period.  During this period his themes drew from the little eddies and streams that feed the waters of Indian Life.  Those that seldom attract a second glance, the non-persons of the Indian streets, become Krishen's unlikely heroes..  There is a marked change from the lyrical paintings of his early years to something approaching an obsession with brutality in public life.'  (Gayatri Sinha, Krishen Khanna: A Critical Biography, New Delhi 2001).