• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1975

    South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

    20 March 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 116

    RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)

    Houses (Benares)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)
    Houses (Benares)
    signed in Hindi (upper left)
    oil on canvas
    31½ x 21 in. (80 x 53.3 cm.)
    Painted in 1956


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    The mid 1950's heralded the beginning of Ram Kumar's fascination with the cityscapes of Benares; this work is an important example of the series. After studying in Paris under Fernand Leger in 1950, his style as a figurative painter was imbued with a melancholic realism drawing upon the diverse influences of Modigliani, Kollwitz, Hopper, Courbet and the Mexican Muralists. Upon his visit to Benares he abandoned figurative painting in favor of landscapes. Over the last fifty years, Benares has remained an integral part of his oeuvre, and he has depicted the city in a variety of forms. Ram Kumar's first visit to the holy city was in the middle of winter and the crammed alleyways and dilapidated houses gave him the impression of a ghost town.

    "Wandering along the ghats in a vast sea of humanity, I saw faces like marks of suffering and pain, similar to the blocks, doors and windows jutting out of dilapidated old houses, palaces, temples, the labyrinth of lanes and bylanes of the old city, hundreds of boats - I almost saw a new world, very strange, yet very familiar, very much my own."
    (Ram Kumar, Ram Kumar, A Journey Within, Indian Contemporary Art, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1996, p. 89.)

    With a cool palette of aquas, blues, grays and tawny browns, the prime motifs within his oeuvre oscillate between his numerous visitations to this holy city and the open vistas that are in essence painterly mementos of his life's journeys. These works have stillness in common as is evidenced in this particular work. The empty spectral city by the banks of the Ganges has an architectural formalism that ironically in reality would be chaotically with teeming bathers and pilgrims.

    Provenance

    Kumar Gallery, New Delhi. Acquired by the present owner in the 1960's.
    Kurt London led a remarkable life as a US Diplomat, academic and musicologist. He was affiliated with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and wrote and published numerous books on music in the cinema and International relations. Kurt and Jean London traveled extensively, visiting India in the 1960's. This work has been in the family collection since acquisition.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note according to the artist this work was painted in 1965-66.
    Please note the title of the work is 'Houses' as per the Kumar Gallery label on reverse. It is signed in Hindi and not dated as mentioned in the catalogue.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF JEAN L. LONDON