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.