Coups de Coeur: The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection

Ram Kumar

Untitled (Varanasi)

Auction Closed

October 26, 03:08 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 GBP

Lot Details


Coups de Coeur: The Guy and Helen Barbier Family Collection

Ram Kumar

1924 - 2018

Untitled (Varanasi)

Oil on canvas

Signed, dated and inscribed 'RAM KUMAR / 63 / 33 ½ x 21 ½ 1963' on reverse

85.5 x 55 cm. (33 ⅝ x 21 ⅝ in.)

Painted in 1963

Acquired directly from the artist in New Delhi, circa early 1980s

‘Ram Kumar has no desire to shock or seduce the eye which makes so much of abstract art slide into the sensational or the decorative. The ascetic streak in his mental make-up will not permit any such indulgence. The sense of quiet that pervades his work invites contemplation, not gaze.’

(S. Lal, ‘Between Being and Nothingness’, Ram Kumar: A Journey Within, ed. G. Gil, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1996, p. 15)

The current work from the Guy and Helen Barbier Family collection is a gem within Ram Kumar’s revered Varanasi series. Thick with impasto, a condensed agglomeration of geometric forms in hues recalling the sandstone architecture of the sacred city, emerges from within a darker brown expanse, evocative of the lapping water at Varanasi’s ghats. Ram Kumar’s poignant description of his first encounter with the city in 1961 is powerfully visualized in the current lot.

“It was the middle of winter. And I had reached the city late at night. The dimly lit lanes were deserted and gave an impression of a ghostly deserted city. Except for the occasional howl of stray dogs, all was quiet. I thought the city was inhabited only by the dead and their dead souls. It looked like a haunted place and still remains the same… Every sight was like a new composition, a still life artistically organised to be interpreted in colours. It was not merely outward appearances which were fascinating but they were vibrant with an inner life of their own, very deep and profound, which left an everlasting impression on my artistic sensibility."

- Ram Kumar (ibid., p. 89)  

A perfectly balanced and richly textured composition, this painting forms a fitting tribute to the mystery and allure of the holy city.