GANESH PYNE (1937-2013)
GANESH PYNE (1937-2013)

Untitled (Laxmi Emerging from the Ocean)

GANESH PYNE (1937-2013)
Untitled (Laxmi Emerging from the Ocean)
signed and indistinctly dated in Bengali (lower left)
tempera on canvas
19¼ x 22 1/8 in. (48.9 x 56.2 cm.)
Painted circa late 1960s
Acquired directly from the artist, circa late 1980s

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Umah Jacob
Umah Jacob

Lot Essay

At length when many a year had fled,
Up floated, on her lotus bed,
A maiden fair and tender-eyed,
In the young flush of beauty's pride.
She shone with pearl and golden sheen,
And seals of glory stamped her queen.
On each round arm glowed many a gem,
On her smooth brows, a diadem,
Rolling in waves beneath her crown
The glory of her hair flowed down.
Pearls on her neck of price untold,
The lady shone like burnisht gold.
Queen of the Gods, she leapt to land,
A lotus in her perfect hand,
And fondly, of the lotus-sprung,
To lotus-bearing Vishnu clung.
Her Gods above and men below
As Beauty's Queen and Fortune know.

(R.T.H. Griffith trans., The Ramayan of Valmiki, Book 1, Canto XLV, Benares, 1874)

"What gives Pyne's work distinctiveness is the artist's involvement with his art. His life, his world, indeed his whole being is focused on this act of creation. He is most at home with his own inner world of darkness and light from which emerges the strange forms. The canvases are a reflection of this all-absorbing interior life." (E. Datta, Ganesh Pyne: His Life and Times, Kolkata, 1998, p. 17)

Ganesh Pyne is known for his meticulous draughtsmanship and delicate handling of pigment, only completing around ten paintings a year in this careful process. The artist was initially influenced by Abanindranath and Gaganendranath Tagore of the Bengal School. However, his style soon evolved away from the gentle watercolours of his early career towards a more modernist vocabulary. Pyne began using tempera as his primary medium in the mid-1960s and his experiments with indigenous powder pigments and various binding agents allowed him to develop a unique way of building up surface and texture on canvas and create a dream-like atmosphere in his works.

Influenced by the stories his grandmother would tell him as a child, Pyne's imagination was always ignited, inspiring him to paint masterful pieces full of mysticism and fantasy. The artist was as fascinated by beauty as he was by decay and impermanence, and also drew on religion, fables and folktales in his work.

In this early painting, Pyne offers his version of the Samudra Manthan episode or churning of the ocean described in the ancient Hindu mythological texts including the Bhagavata and Vishnu Puranas, and in the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Here, an exquisitely rendered figure of the goddess Laxmi, dressed in crimson robes, appears to float out of the waters of kshirsagar or the ocean of milk, under the light of Chandra, the pale moon that was born from the same churning. Associated with wealth, fortune and prosperity, the crowned goddess carries a golden fern in her right hand and a pot adorned with jewels in her left. The delicate lotus blossoms that appear next to her in the mist symbolise her usual pedestal.

Pyne was one of the few artists that Abhishek grew very close to in Calcutta, before his family moved to Bangalore in 1990. The collector spent several hours with the reclusive artist in his studio, always meeting him alone, and developed an intimate personal relationship with him. Their friendship led to the acquisition of several of the artist's early works, including this luminous painting, and a few specially commissioned pieces as well.

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