Lot 4
  • 4

BHUPEN KHAKHAR | Untitled (Tailor)

600,000 - 800,000 INR
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  • Bhupen Khakhar
  • Untitled (Tailor)
  • Signed and dated in Gujarati lower left
  • Watercolour on paper
  • 19 ⅛ x 13 ⅛ in. (48.7 x 33.5 cm.)
  • Painted in 1999


Acquired directly from the artist circa 1999

Catalogue Note

Based on the everyday man, this watercolour relates to a group of earlier works that Khakhar produced during the early 1970s called the trade paintings. It was a series of portraits defined by their professions that included tailors, watch repairers, barbers and factory accountants. Khakhar's trade portraits elevated the Indian working class man to the sophisticated realms of art. In an interview with the noted writer, Ulli Beier, Khakhar explained, “…I want to introduce an element which people can relate to immediately…” (U. Beier and B. Khakhar, Courtesy Aspect Magazine, Issue no. 23, January 1982, unpaginated). Speaking of his subjects, he said “…every evening after five, I walk through the Bazaars and I make a mental note whether I am going to use this shop or that in the next painting I am trying to evolve. I am at a loss to know exactly what my feelings are towards these people. At one time I feel fully sympathetic towards these people; but at other times I also feel against their hypocrisy. And another thing is that I come from that same class. So I feel some kind of immediate identification with them. So it goes on at so many levels. I attack it and I love it, don’t know what it is…” (ibid.) 

The current work, as with the earlier trade portraits, recalls early nineteenth-century Company School paintings, where indigenous artists recorded customs and views of an exotic land for European patrons in a documentary fashion. Geeta Kapur discusses the influence of these Company School paintings on Khakhar's work and how he was often regarded as 'a satirist drawing on the account of the common man himself. In retrospect, we would do better to see him as laying the ground for a counter class-culture, one rebuking the very class of viewers to who high art is addressed and to who at any rate it is accessible and available.' (G. Kapur 'Strategies', Bhupen Khakhar, Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2002, p. 30)