RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)
RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)

Untitled (Boy and Goat)

RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)
Untitled (Boy and Goat)
signed and dated 'RAM 56' (lower left); bearing label 'ARTIST - RAM KUMAR TITLE "BOY & GOAT" DATE 1956 MEDIUM ... SIZE ... owner: Mrs. and Mrs. Thomas Keehn' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
27½ x 22 5/8 in. (69.85 x 57.5 cm.)
Painted in 1956
Acquired directly from the artist
Thence by descent
Thomas B. Keehn Family, India Ink: Letters from India 1953-61 by Martha McKee Keehn and The Keehn Family Collection of Modern Indian Art, New Delhi, 2000, p. 104 (illustrated)
New York, BosePacia Modern, The Keehn Collection: Important Paintings of Post-Independence India, September -- October 1997

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Lot Essay

"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." (S. Lal, Ram Kumar, A Journey Within, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1996, p. 15)

Ram Kumar lived in France from 1949-1952 where he apprenticed under Fernand Leger and André Lhote. He returned to India soon thereafter and his works of the 50s are ripe with Modernist influences, notably Amedeo Modigliani These works from this brief figurative period reverberate with a sense of desolation and loss. Boy and Goat from 1956 belongs to Ram Kumar's early figurative phase, painted while the artist was visiting France at around the same time as his contemporaries S.H. Raza and Akbar Padamsee. Ram Kumar was witness to strong feelings of disillusionment and alienation in those around him. The figures in his works from this period reflect these 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." The figure is not a specific individual; rather, he symbolizes the state of the human condition, "eloquent of a total aggregate oppressive reality of which they were separate and private manifestations." (R. Bartholomew, 'Attitudes to the Social Condition: Notes on Ram Kumar', Lalit Kala Contemporary 24-25, New Delhi, 1981, pp. 31-32)

Thematically the bucolic painting Boy and Goat, is a departure from Ram Kumar's archetypal renditions of anonymous suited figures in urban landscapes evidenced in his renowned works, Sad Town and Vagabond. In 1955, Ram Kumar visited Kabul which he describes as a respite from the Delhi heat and was further struck by "its deserted roads and roadside chai-khanas, rugged mountains, paintings in the museum." (Ram Kumar, A Journey Within, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1996, p. 198) In a sense, the charming depiction of the boy within a tent-like enclosure, reflects his innocence and is likely a reminder of simpler times without the weight and heaviness that informs his other works of this period.

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