Audio Lot 707 Ram Kumar
RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)
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RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)

Untitled (Street Urchins)

RAM KUMAR (B. 1924)
Untitled (Street Urchins)
inscribed 'RAM KUMAR' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
33 1/8 x 18½ in. (84.1 x 47 cm.)

Painted circa late 1950s
Received as a birthday gift by Mary Irwin Coleman, a Ford Foundation scholar in New Delhi, 1961
Thence by descent
Times of India Annual, New Delhi, 1961

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Lot Essay

The reason I made these sort of paintings, was that I was a bit inspired by the left politics at that time, there was an inclination towards the tragic side of life [...] it started here, becoming more mature in Paris. And even if I had not been inspired by politics, perhaps I would have made the same kind of paintings, because that is a part of my nature some sort of sadness, misery or whatever it is.
- Ram Kumar, 1993

Ram Kumar’s early figurative works were a commentary of the socio-political conditions that the artist was surrounded by. "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, New Delhi, 1996, p. 15)

Ram Kumar's paintings of the late 1950s are then a reaction to the events he witnessed upon his return from Paris. He was acutely aware of his urban surroundings and the pervading sense of disillusionment and alienation he sensed in those around him in India. Through portrayal of two street urchins Kumar conveys a reticent aura which is forcefully expressive of the artist's own sympathy towards the stricken conditions of an impoverished people. They become symbolic and universalized as their faces become more stylized and abstracted as if fading out of reality.

This previously undiscovered figurative work on canvas by Ram Kumar shows the artist at a creative crossroads between abstraction and figuration. Within a few years he would remove all recognizable figuration and narrative from his paintings. This painting retains the unmistakable influence of European Modernist Amadeo Modigliani’s paintings which Kumar was exposed to during his years in Paris in the 1950s. This tender scene of two figures with elongated necks and contorted torsos their faces dissolving into the background captures a moment of reflection in the artist’s career, and offers an insight into his creative process, both technically and psychologically before his turn to abstract painting in the 1960s.

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