A Treasure Trove of Exceptional Works in New Delhi

Launch Slideshow

From 24 to 25 February, highlights from the New York sale of Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art on 14 March will be presented at The Leela Palace, New Delhi. The exhibition, which is open each day from 9am until 3pm, includes an exciting group of 16 lots from the auction by some of the most pre-eminent creators of South Asian art, including Raja Ravi Varma, Maqbool Fida Husain and Francis Newton Souza. Please note some works will be represented by a 1:1 size facsimile at the exhibition. Click ahead to discover more about the works on view.

Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art
14 March 2017 | New York

A Treasure Trove of Exceptional Works in New Delhi

  • Maqbool Fida Husain, Four Women, 1971.
    Estimate $400,000–600,000.
    Sold by Sotheby’s as part of the landmark Herwitz sales of the 1990s, notable as the first standalone South Asian art sale which marked the emergence of South Asian art into the worldwide market, this outstanding piece is one of Maqbool Fida Husain’s greatest works. Closely linked in composition to the artist’s seminal piece, Between the Spider and the Lamp, which drew inspiration from Pablo Picasso’s Cubist masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Four Women offers a departure from Husain’s earlier depictions of the female form. While previously Husain’s figures populated the spaces with rural village scenes in the background or detailed landscapes, the women in the painting with their silent masks are archetypal figures in their own private world. Through this sense of alienation and the careful use of pigments, Husain invokes a deep awareness of the human condition.

  • Jehangir Sabavala, City-II, 1999.
    Estimate $250,000–300,000.
    One of celebrated artist Jehangir Sabavala’s greatest works, City-II is monumental in both size and resonance. The work escalates in Sabavala’s archetypal parallel layers: the cumulonimbus cloud plumes becoming gradually infused with the richness of the setting sun, amongst the smoggy backdrop of downtown Bombay. The artist’s obsession with the sky found in many of his works is evident here dominating the canvas and dwarfing the high-rise urban architecture; a reference to the power of nature over man. The vibrant hues of yellow and ochre are masterfully combined so that the canopy of cloud and sky occupy separate planes and present an ‘exploded view’ of the landscape.

  • Francis Newton Souza, Untitled (Portrait of a Lady), 1960.
    Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    The current owner of the painting met Francis Newton Souza at a bar called the North Star in London in 1960. Taken with her beauty the artist asked her if she could sit for him as a model, later taking her back to his studio to paint her. The painting was initially gifted to the sitter’s boyfriend, but eventually made its way into the owner’s collection when she moved back to her native Norway in 1963. The portrait incorporates Souza's characteristic monumental two-dimensional head and torso set against a background devoid of context that allows the viewer to focus solely on the subject. Layered with thick impasto heavily applied with the palette knife, the texture and depth of the work offers the viewer a thoroughly ripe, tactile presentation.

  • Horace van Ruith, Untitled (A Brahmin Household). Estimate $40,000–60,000.
    Painted during the artist’s visit to Bombay between 1879 and 1884, this large-scale tableau-style work shows a Brahmin Household in the leisure of their private courtyard. The work which is typical of van Ruith’s portrayals of local people, captures an intimate family moment, where admidst the serenity of the home, everyday life is exposed; the mother ushering her child along with ornaments for worship, the gentlemen leaning against the pillar in a moment of contemplation, the seated men in relaxed chatter and one shadowed in quiet meditation. An Italian artist who specialized in portraiture, landscapes and genre scenes, van Ruith settled in London, and following his visit to Bombay exhibited a number of paintings of Bombay scenes at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition opened by Queen Victoria in 1886.

  • Sayed Haider Raza, Paysage, 1983.
    Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    A further work from the historic Herwitz collection, this iconic painting is from a high point in Raza's oeuvre that illustrates the artist’s progression towards total abstraction, and the geometry born from the precepts of Hindu philosophy. His paintings from this time are clearly influenced by his interest in the Indian miniature tradition not just in composition but also in palette. Inspired by the traditional colours of Rajasthan, the vibrant colours in Paysage pulsate across the canvas depicting the rhythms of nature.

  • Raja Ravi Varma, Untitled (Damayanti).
    Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    One of only a handful of Raja Ravi Varma works to appear at international auction, this painting exemplifies the artist’s exceptional skill at portraiture. Fusing Western techniques with traditional Eastern sensibilities, Varma drew inspiration from illustrations of old master paintings, photos of theatrical performances and other images from European magazines. In Untitled (Damayanti), Varma uses the composition taken from a photograph of a European performance of ‘The Feast of Roses, L’inamorata’, c.1900, to re-imagine a scene from a popular Sanskrit play Nala and Damayanti. Portraying the heroine Damayanti in a glimmering sari, Varma combines classic Indian mythology with European Realism to create a painting of brilliant resonance.

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