Lot 47
  • 47

RAM KUMAR | Untitled

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • Ram Kumar
  • Untitled
  • Signed and dated 'Ram Kumar / 1970' on reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 94.1 x 127 cm. (37 x 50 in.)
  • Painted in 1970


Given to the current owner by the artist Lynda Benglis, circa 2000


There is light wear around the edges. The paint surface is uneven which results in the appearance of hairline craquelure and minute losses however these are likely to be inherent and not a condition issue. UV light: A very small spot of re-touching fluoresces under ultraviolet light in the upper right corner which corresponds to a repaired tear to the reverse of the canvas.This is only visible upon close scrutiny. This painting is in very good overall condition for its age, as viewed.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

“My work is now guided by a concern with plastic qualities. I am more deeply involved with the form than with content.  When one is young and beginning, one's work is dominated by content, by ideas – but as one grows older, one turns to the language of painting itself.  I have grown detached – I want to find the same peace as mystics found ...” (R. Kumar, ‘Landscapes of the Mind,’ Ram Kumar: A Journey Within, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1996, p. 117) In the late 1960s, Kumar’s paintings turned away from Varanasi and towards the more nostalgic landscapes of his childhood, the forests and rivers of the Himalayan foothills. ‘Like a dedicated ascetic, Ram Kumar had to undergo the final rite of purification by renouncing not only the human-body which he had done earlier, but also its habitation on earth, the city, and make the decisive leap into nature itself.’ N. Verma, ‘From Solitude to Salvation’ in Ram Kumar: A Retrospective, New Delhi, 1994, p. 7)

During this period, the forms within Kumar’s paintings become condensed and deconstructed. By the time Kumar painted this untitled work in 1970, the elements of Kumar’s landscapes had been reduced to barely recognisable elements juxtaposed in shifting vertical and horizontal planes.  With regards to this departure from identifiable forms, Kumar states "perhaps a human face or a recognizable image shuts all doors to an observer as far as the basic essence of a work of art is concerned. Only the superficial image remains on the surface which has very little to do with art. As in classical music words are insignificant. In art image is distraction." (R. Kumar quoted in Ram Kumar: A Journey Within, New Delhi, 1996, p. 201)

Kumar’s works from the late 1960s document his steady progression towards complete abstraction. ‘Ram Kumar translates the landscape into a system of lines, planes, blocks; their machine edged logic, entering into dialogue with texture and tone, governs the distribution of significant masses over the picture space.’ (R. Hoskote, Ram Kumar: A Journey Within, New Delhi, 1996, p. 38) The current work straddles the boundaries between abstract and realism, depicting the landscape through layered planes of blue, brown, white and ochre. The sombre tones still echo the sense of quiet contemplation present in his early canvases, yet their inherent lyricism and calm reveals a profound sense of inner illumination and perhaps a greater confidence in the artistic process itself. ‘These “abstractions” are… like a shifting beam of light… passing through the entire space of the painting, from one segment of reality to another, uncovering the hidden relations, between the sky, the rock the river. The sacred resides not in the objects depicted, but in the relationships discovered.’ (N. Verma, Ram Kumar: A Journey Within, New Delhi, 1996, p. 27)