Untitled (Krishna)

Untitled (Krishna)
signed and stamped in Bengali (lower left)
gouache on paper
26 3/8 x 19½ in. (67 x 49.5 cm.)
Executed circa 1940s
Gifted by the artist to the current owner's grandfather, Dr. Rai Rajeshwar Bali, Minister of Education, Health, Local Self Government of the United Provinces, in 1944
Thence by descent

Lot Essay

"Our Paintings were never a blind imitation of nature, as can be seen in the old paintings of Ajanta, Bagh and Singhuria caves. We must try and recapture that note in these paintings. It is a difficult task [... ] Art is intuition. The more we try to analyze it the more we stray away from it." - Asit Kumar Haldar

Born in 1890, Asit Kumar Haldar was the grandnephew of Rabindranath Tagore, and studied at the Government School of Art in Calcutta, where he was one of the earliest pupils of Abanindranath Tagore. A gifted artist, Haldar worked with equal ease in oil, tempera and watercolour, and also in the unique technique he developed of lacquered painting on wood. Besides a painter and sculptor, Haldar was also a talented writer, and frequently turned to literature to express his aesthetic vision.

A pivotal moment in Haldar's artistic career came when he, along with fellow student of Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, was invited by Christina Herringham, a British copyist and expert on mural technique to copy the cave paintings at Ajanta. Besides the actual techniques used to paint these frescoes, the idea of narrating a story through images proved to be a revelation to him. Aspects of the Mughal and Pahari miniature painting traditions also influenced the work of Haldar and his contemporaries from the Neo-Classical Bengal School. The emphasis these painting traditions laid on intricate detail, and their preponderance of literary and mythological themes had a profound effect on Haldar's work. As a result, many of the artist's works draw on poetic metaphors and allegories, are linked with Rabindranath Tagore's poems and lyrics, and have evocative titles.

This particular painting is an exuberant example of Haldar's aesthetic. The influence of his mentors and schooling, local folk traditions, and the ancient frescoes at Ajanta can all be observed, though it is the subtle genius of the artist that succeeds in conceiving a beautifully balanced, graceful composition that exudes a calm serenity. The elaborate ornamental details and the soft radiant palette compliment the central figures of Krishna and Radha.

As an acknowledgement of his talent and work, the British government appointed Haldar the principal of the Government School of Art and Crafts at Lucknow. He was also the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1934.

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