Lot 13
  • 13

JAGDISH SWAMINATHAN | The Sign of the Houses

600,000 - 1,000,000 INR
bidding is closed


  • Jagdish Swaminathan
  • The Sign of the Houses
  • Signed and dated 'J. Swaminathan '64' and further signed and dated in Devanagari on reverse
  • Watercolour on paper
  • 43 x 54 cm. (17 x 21 ¼ in.)
  • Painted in 1964


Acquired directly from the artist, late 1960s 
Thence by descent


New Delhi, Gallery Espace, Transits of a Wholetimer, 7 September - 6 October 2012


S. Kalidas, Transits of a Wholetimer, J. Swaminathan (1928-94), Gallery Espace Art. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2012, illustration unpaginated

Catalogue Note

Jagdish Swaminathan’s early work is filled with forms and symbols from tribal art. His encounters with indigenous people in India had left a lasting impression upon him. He recalled watching a little boy with a snake bite being treated by the village 'doctor' who kept chanting and throwing water on him. The boy miraculously made a recovery and the snake was set free. This strong belief in old rituals impacted him and his work is replete with traditional forms, animals and elements of nature. (J. Swaminathan: An exhibition of Paintings, Vadehra Art Gallery, 1993) This early work, with its bright and vivid use of colour, is painted in a manner that afforded him the ability to display shapes in a symbolic and novel way.  He has used his pictorial space to convey conceptualised landscapes – with a façade of simplicity.  Swaminathan is essentially presenting the landscapes of India as he sees and interacts with them. He openly rejected the melded Indian traditions with European frameworks and would instead focus upon symbolism and abstracted natural forms.

Geometric shapes such as the triangle, rectangle and the circle appear frequently in his works, and they take on a symbolic and religious significance.  The upward pointing triangle can be seen to represent the mountains, which in the Hindu context is seen as the abode of Shiva the ascetic, and this interpretation is further reinforced by the appearance of the snake  below the triangle, both a symbol of Shiva and in itself considered a symbol of fertility and rebirth in the animist religions that predate Hindu beliefs. Here, he has created a new idiom that is both original and distinctive.