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JAMINI ROY (1887-1972)
JAMINI ROY (1887-1972)

Untitled (Santhal Lady)

JAMINI ROY (1887-1972)
Untitled (Santhal Lady)
signed in Bengali (lower right)
oil on canvas
34½ x 22½ in. (87.6 x 57.2 cm.)
Acquired directly from the artist by Sarah Erulkar, a well-known documentary director, circa 1960
Thence by descent

Sarah Erulkar was born in Calcutta, and at the age of seven she and her family moved to London where she later went on to win several awards as a film-maker over a career spanning 40 years. A visit to India in 1947 to take part in the independence celebrations with her father, a barrister who had defended leaders of the Independence movement in the 1920s, resulted in her directing Lord Siva Danced. This film featured the renowned Indian classical dancer Ram Gopal and became a cult classic in India and in Britain. Erulkar made several subsequent trips to Calcutta in the 1950s and 60s and acquired the current painting during one of these visits. Erulkar continued to make films about India, including The Living City about Calcutta for which she won a BAFTA for best director in 1978.

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Lot Essay

Jamini Roy’s unique style illustrated in Untitled (Santhal Lady) was a reaction against both the Bengal School and Western artistic traditions. His mission was to capture the simplicity embodied in folk life; to make art available to a wider cross-section of people; and to provide Indian art with its own identity. Roy discarded European paints choosing mineral and vegetable based pigments. Painting ordinary men and women and reformulating popular images, he restricted his palette to seven earthy colors; red, yellow ochre, cadmium green, vermillion, grey, blue and white.

This exceptional early painting depicting the profile of a seated Santhal woman adjusting a flower in her hair, is a rare and important work as it represents his transitional phase. This subject matter and artistic style emerges at a point in Roy’s career when he had taken this first step away from his academic training and the Bengal School style, but had not yet fully absorbed the folk traditions of the 'pat' painters of rural Bengal. This work is also a predecessor of the "monochrome brush drawings, mainly studies of women, which attempted to impart volume and structure through just a single vital sweep." (S. Datta, Urban Patua: The Art of Jamini Roy,
Mumbai, 2010, p. 43)

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