Modern Masters of South Asia

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Launch Slideshow

A large-scale painting of the Deposition of Christ by Francis Newton Souza; an outstanding work by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde from the peak of his career and an ethereal Ganesh Pyne canvas from a Swiss collection are among highlights from the Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art sale, taking place in London on 18 October. Highlights from the auction will go on view at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel from 3–4 September as part of an extensive programme of exhibitions and events by Sotheby's in Mumbai, which also includes the launch of a three-day course on International Contemporary Art, organised in collaboration with Sotheby’s Institute. Click ahead to see some of the sale and travex highlights.

Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art
18 October | London

Modern Masters of South Asia

  • Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Untitled, 1973. Estimate: £900,000–1,400,000.
    Arguably painted at the zenith of his career in New Delhi, this work belongs to an important period in Gaitonde’s oeuvre, marked by a notable shift from his early horizontal canvases to a vertical format, which he employed until his very last works in the 1990s. In this ageless masterpiece, Gaitonde has assembled endless layers of colour, resulting in sequences of prismatic hues in calming blues and verdant greens. A testament to Gaitonde's painstaking process, Untitled exemplifies his proficiency over his medium, and his mastery over light, form, and colour to achieve a refined equilibrium between the real and the ephemeral.

  • Francis Newton Souza, The Deposition, 1963.
    Estimate: £400,000–600,000.
    One of Francis Newton Souza’s most moving, sympathetic portrayals of Christ’s agony; here he takes the iconography and composition from Titian’s Entombment of Christ, allowing it to be truly re-born in his own expressionistic language which led critics to compare him with the likes of Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon. This work was celebrated on the cover of Studio International Art magazine in 1964 and represents the pinnacle of Souza’s work from his London years.

  • Jagdish Swaminathan, Untitled, 1979. Estimate: £60,000–80,000.
    Never before seen in public and coming to market from a Brazilian collection, Untitled presents a richly saturated palette that demonstrates Swaminathan’s interest in Pahari and Basholi miniatures, placing his work as a unique re-interpretation of traditional Indian art. In 1962, Jagdish Swaminathan founded 'Group 1890', an artist collective whose ideology was to reject both the 'vulgar naturalism' of  Indian painting of the time and the 'hybrid mannerism' of European art. The group urged artists to interpret the natural world in symbolic and abstracted forms. Swaminathan argued that Indian paintings were not meant to represent reality in a naturalistic, objective manner and needed to evolve and his pursuit of an alternative pictorial language allowed colour and space to become essential forces in his work.

  • Magbool Fida Husain, Hajera, 1964. Estimate: £50,000–70,000.
    Hajera depicts two women, illuminated in varying hues against a monochromatic background. Husain paints them in reverence: one shielding her face with her ghunghat, and the other sheltered by the woman in the foreground. A dark sun, another familiar theme in Husain’s early work dominates the background. Husain creates a three-dimensional effect through his mosaic-like application of paint and the palette reveals the artist’s love for Indian miniatures - particularly Basholi, Malwa and Mewar schools. This work is a profound example of Husain’s unique fusion of post-independence and Post-Impressionist painting: powerfully evocative of classic Indian plastic traditions and distinctly Modern at the same time.

  • Ganesh Pyne, Untitled (Under the Fountain), 1969.
    Estimate: £40,000–60,000.
    This work is a fine example of the exquisite melancholic paintings laden with symbolism and executed with refined artisanal skills by Ganesh Pyne in his prime years. Pyne’s use of archetypal symbols allows the viewer to read the multi-layered connotations within his works. The symbol of the fountain entered Pyne’s oeuvre via Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s work, in particular the film La Dolce Vita. He was struck by the possibly that a fountain could be a symbol of life’s cycles, because the water comes from the ground and then returns to its origins. Pyne was known to be an intensely private person and his human figures tend to be solitary, introspective beings.

  • Jehangir Sabavala, Rice Fields, Palni Hills – II, 2008.
    Estimate: £200,000–300,000.
    One of the largest-scale works from this period of Sabavala’s career, Rice fields, Palni Hills – II is a sublime depiction of Southern India’s lush Palni hills, which the artist encountered during his extensive travels across the country.  He crafts mystic effects of light, illusion and movement by his dexterous rendition of fractured cubist planes and colours which rouse an Impressionist freshness. This work is a fine example of Sabavala’s mastery in creating a painterly manifestation that is not only symbolic of a local ethos but is also in harmony with international idioms of art.

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