Lot 41
  • 41

Manjit Bawa (1941-2008)

80,000 - 120,000 USD
104,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Manjit Bawa
  • Untitled (Mystic Tiger)
  • Signed and dated 'Manjit 93' on reverse
  • Acrylic on canvas


The Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata, 1994

Catalogue Note

"Early in the morning, impatient for dawn to break behind the majestic snow-peaked mountains, Manjit's day began as he made his way to his studio in Dalhousie, a cup of steaming tea in hand. As I discovered for myself later, this was when he painted his miniatures, painstakingly creating images on the empty squares before him, delicately, ever so delicately composing his figures of men and animals against their backdrops in jewelled shades of bright emerald, dark indigo, rich crimson. Stories he narrated pictorially of courage, love and compassion, sourced often times from pan-Indic mythologies, epics, ballads and folklore. It was fascinating to observe how the imagery came alive as Manjit painted the face, picking up a brush that had only one strand of squirrel  fur hair to define the contours of dainty lips, the blush escaping on the nayika's face, the eyes of the warrior King lighting up as he claimed his beloved, the presence of cows and buffaloes, mute spectators of the drama unfolding before them.

"In other miniatures, indigo-hued Krishna would be surrounded by a pack of dogs, a herd of cattle as he stood, a solitary figure, playing the flute by himself. Soliloquies spoken in the mysterious depths of woods or river thus wafted across, a whisper of love, the hushed rustle of a caress making its way to the viewer—such was the magic of the brush he held aloft, painting, sipping tea, looking intensely at the image he was like a conjuror summoning life. Portraits of women draped in lilac and jade, and warriors with unsheathed swords, compassion writ large on their visages. Was this his worldview? A throwback to the years in London when he was a part of the flower children's movement to change the universe and make it a better planet? Carrying placards that read 'Make love not war'? 

"As he painted, he would hum snatches of Bulleh Shah, narrate tales from Mahabharat of valor and deceit, his hand never pausing as he painted. As his brush touched the mysterious depths of a woman's eyes, he would share for the umpteenth time the lessons he learnt from Abani Sen: ‘Begin the portraits with the eyes .. the figure with the feet, then legs.' And as the morning hour progressed into noon, Manjit would turn his attention to the larger canvases stacked against the walls, all vying for his attention. Gradually, he relaxed, the taut concentration giving way to mischievous jokes and laughter. The whole atmosphere in the studio would lighten up, his son Ravi—now confident of claiming his father's attention—would chatter away. Manjit, in the meanwhile, would stand tall and start working on the outlines of a twelve foot canvas, reaching up to shade the contours, moving downwards to the body, slowly changing the palette, shifting from the darker purples to softer mauves, now working with another set of brushes on an image of a goat, daintily arching its neck up in the air, its purple body in radiant contrast with the solid green background ..."

Text by Ina Puri
13 February 2012