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    Sale 11512

    South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

    26 May 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 28

    VASUDEO S. GAITONDE (1924-2001)

    Untitled

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    VASUDEO S. GAITONDE (1924-2001)
    Untitled
    signed and dated 'GAITONDE 58' and signed and dated in Hindi (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    49 5/8 x 39¾ in. (126 x 101 cm.)
    Painted in 1958


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    Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s painting from 1958 represents a landmark that epitomises the master’s enduring journey of experimentation and discovery. This painting is one of the first examples of Gaitonde’s radical shift to a fundamentally non-objective form of art. Figures and recognisable forms give way in favour of a deeper fascination with light and colour. As the critic Holland Cotter states, “He [Gaitonde] learned to use color as an independent expressive element and to break representational forms down to their abstract core. In doing so, he revealed an important historical truth: Indian painting had always been, fundamentally, about abstraction.” (H. Cotter, ‘An Indian Modernist With a Global Gaze’ The New York Times, January 2015)

    This work is an antecedent to Gaitonde’s abstract landscapes from later in his career, seen in the bold expanses of colour which both literally and physically make up the building blocks for this abstract image. These blocks of colour “perform a stylistic function by organising the formal tensions in the available space and by quietly dramatising the interplay of light, texture and space.” (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated).

    Gaitonde’s compositions ofer new readings with every viewing, the layers of colour and light bubble to the surface. The colour blocks are in perfect balance but are arranged without a specific sequence or order in mind - they convey Gaitonde’s personal vocabulary. The browns, yellows, ochre and blues of this painting create harmonic synergetic symphonies. During the late 1950s, Gaitonde had a studio at the Bhulabhai Memorial Institute in Bombay among fellow painters, thespians, musicians and dancers. He thrived in this interdisciplinary environment and was very fond of Indian classical music and dance. In this exemplar of modernity, the colourful abstracted forms build and move in harmony conveying moods and thoughts similar to the beats in music and the steps of a dance sequence. However, what resonates, above all in this painting is the idea of tranquillity. In this pivotal painting, Gaitonde becomes for the first time a painter of silence.

    “Everything starts from silence. The silence of the brush. The silence of the canvas. The silence of the painting knife. The painter starts by absorbing all these silences.” (P. Nandy, ‘The Forgotten Master’, The Illustrated Weekly of India, Sept 7-13, 1991)

    Throughout his career, Gaitonde tested the limits of his aesthetic powers, each time coming up with provocative and unique solutions. His experimental resolve was as much in the mind as with the brush. Departing from figural representation was a monumental shift, not only in his own aesthetics but in the entire process of creating an artwork. Best described by Richard Bartholomew in 1959 as “a quiet man and a painter of the quiet reaches of the imagination” (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated), Gaitonde was uncompromising in his belief that art, the process and the final product, is an expression of the inner self.


    Gaitonde in the History of International Post-War Art

    “Since abstraction is primordial to the arts of several cultures, there is no question of a single origin or a first abstraction: in this sense, abstraction was found as much as it was invented.” - Hal Foster, Art Since 1900

    No other modernist Indian painter exemplifies the spirit of the international art movements of the 1950s and 1960s better than Vasudeo S. Gaitonde. The artist, who preferred to call his art non-objective, was most fittingly the focus of a major retrospective exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014) and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (2015). The exhibition recognised and celebrated Gaitonde’s inimitable contributions to global modernism and transcultural abstraction.

    When examining Gaitonde’s work within the broader context of international post-war art, one can draw parallels with European Modernism, German Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism and the New York School. In particular, the artists Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Paul Klee (1879-1944), Nicholas de Staël (1914-1955), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974) and Mark Rothko (1903-1970) come to mind.

    Early in his career, Paul Klee’s whimsical forms and use of line captured Gaitonde’s imagination. Commentating on Klee’s influence, the artist has stated, “Something in his use of line excited me. I gradually came to identify myself in his work. I liked Klee’s imagination and fantasy.” (F. Nissen, ‘V. S. Gaitonde — Contemporary Indian Artists 8’, Design, February 1958, unpaginated) From the mid-1950s onward there is a freedom that animates Gaitonde’s work. Having moved completely away from representational art, his paintings refect the intensity of light and the depth of colour we see every day, similar to the achievements of de Staël as exemplified in his masterpiece Composition, 1951.

    On the American front, Rothko and Gottlieb, pioneers of Abstract Expressionism, both moved unequivocally from figurative to non-objective art in the 1950s, just as Giatonde did. Rothko and Gottlieb championed the abstract and believed in “[…] the simple expression of the complex thought.” Furthermore, they asserted “We wish to reassert the picture place. We are for fat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth […]” (letter to Edwards Alden Jewell, Art Editor, New York Times, 7 June 1943) The expression and search for truth culminated in Gottlieb’s Blast series from 1957-60. Cool Blast, 1960, radiates with a palpable intensity achieved through Gottlieb’s command of gesture, manipulation of colour and use of the picture plane. These elements resonate with Giatonde’s work from the same time period and are even more evident in his works from the mid-1960s onwards, following his fellowship in New York where he saw works by both artists in person for the first time.

    Provenance

    Formerly in the collection of Mr. T. Borden, an American Merchant Marine who was introduced to Gaitonde's paintings through Kumar Gallery, Calcutta, and acquired several of the artist's works from the late-1950s to early-1960s
    Gifted to a private American Collection, circa 1970
    Gifted to the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery of St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York, by the above
    Christie's London, 11 June 2013, lot 51


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that this lot should be marked with an STAR symbol in the printed catalogue, and as such import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price, in addition to the usual 20% VAT on the Buyer’s Premium.


    Pre-Lot Text

    The Savara Foundation for the Arts and Matra Ashraya:
    A Home and Collection Museum

    “Good paintings are more satisfying companions than the best of books and infnitely more so than most very nice people. I can talk, without speaking, to Cézanne, Prendergast, Daumier, Renoir, and they talk to me in kind. I
    can criticise them and take, without ofense, the refutation which comes silently but powerfully when I learn, months later, what they mean and not what I thought they meant. That is one of the joys of a collection, the elasticity with which paintings stretch to the beholder’s personal vision which they progressively develop. And that is universal, for a painting is justly proportionate to what a man thinks he sees in it. As a substitute for other pursuits, collecting, living with, and studying good paintings – the enthusiast believes – ofers greater interest, variety, and satisfaction than any other pleasure or work a man could select […].

    A man with a house full of good paintings needs no subterfuge of excessive heat or cold to drive him north or south to get away from his own wearying self. Golf, dances, theaters, dinners, traveling, get a set-back as worthy diversions when rabies or pursuit of quality in painting, and its enjoyment, gets into a man’s system. And when he has surrounded himself with that quality, bought with his blood, he is a King.” – Dr. Albert C. Barnes.

    These words by the legendary collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1871-1952), founder of The Barnes Foundation, which is the repository of perhaps the fnest private collection of post-impressionist and early-modern American and European art in the world, and the collecting habits of Paul Mellon, Jr. (1907- 1999) are the inspirations behind the Roohi & Rajiv Savara Family Collection.

    The Savaras began collecting in the 1990s, beginning with Japanese Meiji Period art, then 19th Century Indo-Portuguese and Anglo-Indian furniture before turning toward Pre-Modern and Modern Indian art. Reclusive by nature, they are among the most passionate, intellectually curious and ambitious collectors of Indian art in the world. Their collection includes some of the most exceptional works by leading artists including Raja Ravi Varma, the three Tagores, Somnath Hore and Ganesh Pyne. The collection holds formative works by members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, including Maqbool Fida Husain, Francis Newton Souza, Syed Haider Raza and Ram Kumar. The focus is on creating a detailed trajectory of the artists’ careers, building around their most signifcant phases.

    Above all, the Savaras have a defnitive collection of works by the leading abstract painter, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde. With singular focus and as a result of research and scholarship, the Savaras have acquired the most exceptional and rare works by the artist, which hang beautifully in their home in New Delhi. Their interest in Japanese culture, history and aesthetics can be seen as the inspiration or the spark that ignited their interest in the works of Gaitonde, whose study of Zen Buddhism is refected in his paintings.

    The Savara brothers, Rahul and Rajiv, and his wife Roohi have established The Savara Foundation for the Arts (SFA) to serve as a repository for their iconic collection of Pre-Modern and Modern Indian art, Japanese Meiji art and 19th Century furniture. The SFA is being chartered as a not-for-proft organisation with a focus on the preservation and appreciation of Pre-Modern and Modern Indian Art, through research, documentation and scholarship. The SFA strives towards the advancement of education through stimulating, engaging and innovative outreach programs and grants, to enrich, develop and foster a dialogue between the art of the past and future generations. The Foundation has also been instrumental in sponsoring major international exhibitions including Rhythms of India: The Art of Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) at the San Diego Museum of Art, 2008 and thereafter, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as Rabindranath Tagore: The Last Harvest at the Asia Society Museum, New York, 2011.

    In the early 20th Century, collectors amassed art, in order to create museums of their own that preserved not only objects but also an individual’s vision
    of how art should be experienced. All across Europe and the United States, Collection Museums like the Wallace Collection in London, the Musee Conde near Paris, the Gardner Museum in Boston, The Frick Collection in New
    York, The Barnes Collection in Philadelphia have been maintained, more or less, as they had originally been installed by individual collectors. Each such Collection Museum is unique, serving as a monument to an individual founder or founding couple, memorialising their personal taste in art.

    A close look at these Collection Museums reveal that the collectors commissioned and installed their homes after they had decided to found public institutions. They were designing homes for their respective collections rather than for themselves. Calculated efects of domesticity were intended to recreate the context in which the art had originally been made and to provide future audiences with an intimate experience of art. These museums ofered special opportunities for self-representation because they reconciled the supposedly opposite values of the private and the public. At once, private homes became public institutions.

    It was our very frst visit to the Fondation Beyeler in Basel in 2002 that the seeds of the dream of creating a living place where works of art, in our then just growing collection could be enjoyed, were sown. Over the years, visits to The Philips Collection in Washington DC, Museum Rietberg in Zurich and The Barnes Collection in Merion, Philadelphia turned this into a resolve wherein we desired, in a modest way, to use the inspiration we had had from beautiful interiors, houses of leisured elegance, and to combine it with the joy we had jointly felt in individual works seen in museums and with the all-embracing delight we had experienced in nature, in stones, in fowers, in people.
    Statement from the Savaras

    It is our privilege to handle this masterpiece by Gaitonde from 1958, from the Savara Family Collection. This painting is one of the largest examples of Giatonde’s transition to non-objective painting. This is a rare occasion to acquire such an exceptional painting with impeccable provenance, frst belonging to Gaitonde’s frst American patron. Part of the proceeds of the sale of this painting will be used toward the Museum Collection and realising the vision of the SFA to share the Savara Family Collection and their passion for the visual arts. We can anticipate that Matra Ashraya will serve as an inspiration to the next generation of collectors.

    PROPERTY FROM THE SAVARA FAMILY COLLECTION:
    PART OF THE PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT THE SAVARA FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS