Lot 50
  • 50

Jagdish Swaminathan

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
87,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jagdish Swaminathan
  • Untitled (Bird, Tree and Mountain)
  • Signed and dated in Devanagari on reverse
  • Oil on canvas


Acquired from Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi in 1984

Catalogue Note

In August of 1962, having abandoned journalism in order to pursue a career as a professional painter, Jagdish Swaminathan established Group 1890 alongside eleven other Indian artists. Their manifesto maintained that Indian art was never meant to depict reality in a naturalistic, objective manner. This collective promoted the rejection of vulgar naturalism, the pastoral idealism of the Bengal School and the hybrid mannerism of European modernism. Instead, artists were encouraged to take inspiration from the natural world and interpret it into symbolic and abstracted forms, therefore seeing phenomena in their virginal state. Although the Group held their first and last exhibition in 1963, Swaminathan continued to adhere to this ideology, as can be observed throughout his series, Bird, Tree and Mountain, and in the case of this painting.

For Swaminathan, in order to develop a truly Indian art, it was essential to “establish a continuum between folk, tribal and urban contemporary art”, notes Amrita Jhaveri (A. Jhaveri, A Guide to 101 Modern and Contemporary Indian Artists, India Book House Pvt Ltd., Mumbai, 2005, p. 93). In this series, the artist borrows from the indigenous aesthetic of Indian miniature paintings with their simple compositions and forms.

Space and colour are also used skilfully. The delicate depiction of the bird in this work, creates a scale which suggests the landscape is a magnified view of minutiae. In addition, as is typical in Swaminathan’s work, the canvas is divided into bright colour fields, in this case in saturated shades of red, yellow and orange. This is an example of the artist’s impressive sensibility with regards to colour, which, as Geeta Kapur states, he developed “on the basis of Indian tradition which offers a vast variety of the subtlest most brilliant hues in its art forms”. (G. Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1978, p. 210)

Swaminathan’s iconic conceptual landscape demonstrates his devotion to nature. Regardless of any intentional ambiguities, his work exudes order and calm and this painting is a striking example of his mastery.