RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)
signed and dated 'Ram 56' (lower left); titled, signed and dated 'VAGABOND, RAM KUMAR, 1956' (on the reverse)
oil on board
47½ x 24 in. (120.7 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1956
Ram Kumar, A Journey Within, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1996, p. 58 (illustrated)
New Delhi, Vadehra Art Gallery, Ram Kumar - A Retrospective, 1993

Lot Essay

Upon returning from Paris, Ram Kumar's early years in Delhi were spent observing and painting the people around him. He used these figurative works to express the feelings of alienation, disillusionment and isolation he sensed. The subjects were symbolic of the overall oppression he believed was the inherent reality of society, to which the artist, and by extension his subjects belong. Works from this period reflect concerns that stemmed largely from the trials of urban living in a "city environment circumscribed by the constrictions of urban society and motivated by conflicts which ensue from dense population, unemployment, artificial relationships." (Richard Bartholomew, 'Attitudes to the Social Condition: Notes on Ram Kumar', Lalit Kala Contemporary 24-25, New Delhi, 1981, p. 31.)

In Vagabond, although one individual towers over the others, they appear equally forlorn and isolated and are linked to the cityscape and buildings. The strained posture of their bodies is echoed in the angular jagged shapes of the background that communicate a sense of despair and hopelessness. Ram Kumar has divided the canvas into three components, the young man in the foreground who appears to dominate the work, the cityscape comprised of angular buildings and flat planes, and lastly the two companions leaning heavily on each other for support. All three components are linked to each other with a somber palette magnifying the sense of intense desolation. The focus is almost entirely on the figures and the sense of loneliness is overwhelming. In Ram Kumar's works, the figure is not a specific individual; rather, he or she symbolizes the state of the human condition.
With "their gaunt faces and staring eyes, they even have a certain kind of wan beauty." (Nirmal Verma, From Solitude to Salvation, Ram Kumar: A Journey Within, New Delhi, 1996, p. 22.)
In Vagabond Ram Kumar is referring to the miscreant youth of India, misdirected and disenchanted, trapped in a spiral of a false system of belief.
"As a young artist, Ram Kumar was captivated by, or rather obsessed with, the human face because of the ease and intensity with which it registers the drama of life. The sad, desperate, lonely, hopeless or lost faces, which fill the canvases of his early period, render with pathos his view of the human condition."
(Shyam Lal, Ram Kumar, A Journey Within, New Delhi, 1996, p. 15f.)

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