Lot 12
  • 12

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
  • Untitled
  • Signed and dated 1962 in Devanagari on reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 50 by 30 1/8 in. (127 by 76.5 cm.)


The Chowdhury Family Collection, Austria

Christie's New York, 17 September 2003, lot 163


Ramachandra Rao, P.R., Contemporary Indian Art, Chennai, 1969, pl. 99 illus.

'A Progressive Patron', Art News Magazine of India, Volume 7, Issue 3, 2002, p. 51 illus.

Jhaveri, A., A Guide to 101 Modern and Contemporary Indian Artists, Mumbai, 2005, p. 28 illus.


This work is in good condition. There has been minor restoration in the lower third of the canvas and minor consolidation along all four borders of the painting.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde is regarded as one of India’s most important modern abstract painters. Although he was not an official member of the Progressive Artist's Group, Gaitonde was part of a movement of artistic reinvention that followed Independence. Although his paintings appeared abstract in composition, the artist preferred the term ‘non-objective’ to describe his work. Gaitonde's primary concern was not with representation but with the painted surface itself. Gaitonde stated ‘A painting is simply a painting - a play of light and color... Every painting is a seed which germinates in the next painting. A painting is not limited to one canvas, I go on adding elements and that’s how my work evolves... there is a kind of metamorphosis in every canvas and the metamorphosis never ends.’ (Meera Menezes, “The Meditative Brushstroke,” ART India Magazine, Vol. III, Issue III, 1998, p. 69).

Gaitonde produced very few canvases during his lifetime, partly due to his meticulous approach. He held strong beliefs in his identity as a painter and isolated himself from others, removing any distractions that would interfere with his goal in achieving the purest form of expression through light, colour and texture. When Richard Bartholomew reviewed Gaitonde's work in 1959 he described him as 'a quiet man and a painter of the quiet reaches of the imagination.' (Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, Gaitonde, Lalit Kala Akademi, 1983).  All of Gaitonde's work from this period contains an inherent spirituality, and some have identified it as an expression of the Inner Self. When viewing his paintings one is instantly struck by its contemplative and meditative quality. His works generate a feeling of infinity, representing the hidden depths of the world and mankind. Nadkarni identifies an ‘evocative power’ in Gaitonde’s paintings ‘which operates on more than one level. There is a sense of atmosphere, there is an approximation of music and what is more important, there is a throbbing mystery about the very process of viewing and responding as if one is sucked into some still centre of hitherto unknown experience.’ (ibid.).

Although Gaitonde chose not to identify himself with a particular artistic group or genre he was greatly influenced by the colour techniques of Indian miniatures, the study of ancient scripts and Japanese Zen philosophy. His early works indicate an interest in German Expressionism and notably the paintings of Paul Klee. A turning point in his career occurred after a trip to New York in 1964 when he was awarded a Rockefeller scholarship. Whilst in New York, he was exposed to Abstract Expressionism and witnessed the development of Conceptual Art. Artists such as Mark Rothko, had a profound effect on his work. When Gaitonde returned to India from the US he began to experiment with the roller and palette knife to create his paintings. He would apply multiple and translucent layers of paint to the surface, scraping away areas and then re-applying pigment. This laborious process resulted in the achievement of radiant luminosity through varying depths of light and colour. Through his technique he was able to create subtle textural structures and forms that often emerged along an infinite horizon. In the current work, the placement of the striking saffron yellow shimmering against a hot red ground shadowed by areas of black give the impression of an elusive mirage.