Lot 205
  • 205

Bhupen Khakhar (1934 - 2003)

Estimate
150,000 - 200,000 USD
Sold
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Description

  • Bhupen Khakhar
  • Buffalo Among Flower Bed
  • Inscribed 'Buffalo among Flower Bed / Rs 1101/- (Rupees One thousand One / hundred only) / Bhupen Khakhar / 4 Residency Bungalow / University Office Area, / BARODA 2 (gujarat)' on reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 40 by 33 in. (101.5 by 84 cm.)
  • Painted circa 1969-70

Provenance

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

Thence by descent 

Catalogue Note

Buffalo Among Flower Bed is a rare and lush early landscape by noted Baroda master Bhupen Khakhar. It important not only for its distinguished provenance, but it reflects the artist’s proclivity towards the foliage and verdant imagery of Rajasthani miniatures and Natdwara picchavai paintings. The buffalo’s color mirrors that of the grey hills. The orange flowers emerging from the bush in the foreground are radically enlarged, further miniaturizing the presence of the buffalo. This deliberate disproportional pairing of subject and landscape is characteristic of Khakhar’s idiosyncratic play on perspectives. The composition relates to Khakhar’s American Survey Officer (1969), and more generally to Khakhar’s representations of figures in landscape as it is specifically in works from that time that his figures are created much smaller than the surrounding environment. Buffalo Among Flower Bed is a dream-like composition created very early on in Khakhar’s career and informed his painting style throughout the 1970s.

The flora in Buffalo Among Flower Bed can be attributed to Bhupen's ardent zeal over Henri Rousseau’s works. In Rousseau’s portrayal of jungle scenes, each leaf and tree is given the utmost care and detail, as in the case of this painting. It was in Rousseau’s work that Khakhar found a path towards a new kind of figuration. He developed a cleanly executed, brightly colored painting style. Largely self-taught, Khakhar found Rousseau’s art accessible and unintimidating. It was Rousseau’s work that led Bhupen away from his earliest semi-abstract paintings, towards a more vulnerable language of representation, circumventing the historical and cultural placements of class and caste. In a sense, he created a visual style of Pop Art in India using elements of popular culture. With a focus on the narrative and a combination of the mundane with the exotic, Khakhar’s work was in direct contrast with the abstraction and expressive figuration that was prevalent among the progressive artists of the generation before him.

Timothy Hyman asserts, ‘For Khakhar also, the prevailing academic and high art conventions for depicting the figure were useless and unworkable; he turned instead to the art of the street, and to popular traditions […] sidestepping the oppressive codes of style – of historial and cultural placing, of class and caste – while yet holding on to an essential human dignity.’ (T. Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar, Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd., Ahmedabad, 1998, p. 41) By paying homage to this style in an entirely unique way, Khakhar’s art was viewed as surprisingly refreshing. He was honored by a retrospective at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in 2002, making him one of the first Indian artists to be recognized in an international institutional setting. 

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