Lot 204
  • 204

Jagdish Swaminathan (1928 - 1994)

80,000 - 120,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jagdish Swaminathan
  • Untitled (Anant Yatra)
  • Bearing label on the reverse ‘Anant Yatra’
  • Oil on canvas
  • 50 by 60 in. (127 by 152.5 cm.)


Collection of Dr Johanna Nestor, Austrian ambassador to India and Ceylon, 1966—1970

Thence by descent 

Catalogue Note

In 1966, Jagdish Swaminathan and the Mexican poet Octavio Paz co-published Contra magazine, which included critical articles concerning the overarching influence of the École de Paris on the work of the Progressive Artists' Group (PAG). In 1947, critic Clement Greenberg reviewed Jackson Pollock and Jean Debuffet, advocating American superiority over the European easel painters and traditionalists. The schism during the late 1940s, between the American Abstract Expressionists' interests in mystical primitivism versus the figurative preoccupation of European painters, is similar to the diverse views and approaches of Swaminathan and the PAG in India two decades later. In stark contrast to the PAG, Swaminathan's paintings of the 1960s were imbued with symbols drawn from Indian tribal and folk art, resisting any influence from movements in the West.

Swaminathan argued that, in opposition to the Western approach, traditional Indian paintings were never meant to represent reality in a naturalistic, objective manner. Likewise, his landscapes became metaphors or pictorial tools for the understanding of the Indian concept of maya, the illusory nature of the manifest world. Underlying Swaminathan's iconic conceptual landscape is a deeply spiritual reverence for the unrealized universe. The flat planes of saturated color delineate and contrast with the asymmetrical segments of fine detailing. The mountainous forms appear to be abstracted in the manner of an aerial map, but conceptually, the works are more complex.

In the Bird, Tree and Mountain series, he transformed the indigenous aesthetic in a truly novel and contemporary way, selecting and dematerialising images from nature to express a spiritual sentiment. In these paintings, the image of the bird, signifying infinite space is a recurring motif and there is usually a tree or flowering bush, its branches filigreed against pure color. The mountains are a symbol of ascent and eternity and there are often free floating rocks in the sky. Swaminathan deftly uses space extending devices such as projecting an image and its reflection on the picture surface to create the simultaneous impression of proximity and distance. Utilizing these devices in this painting, Swaminathan's signature delicate bird takes the form of a peacock, the token tree is a finely detailed leaf, creating a scale which suggests that the landscape is rather a magnified view of minutiae.

His application of bright, flat colors and simple compositions and forms was reminiscent of the Indian miniature; in particular, his use of the vivid yellow that is synonymous with Indian sensibilities set him apart from the other artists practising at the time.