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GEORGE KEYT (1901-1993)
GEORGE KEYT (1901-1993)

Untitled (Two Women amid Plants)

GEORGE KEYT (1901-1993)
Untitled (Two Women amid Plants)
signed and dated 'G Keyt '47' (upper right); further inscribed in Hindi (on the reverse)
oil on board
48 x 65 in. (122 x 165 cm.)
Painted in 1947
Private Collection, Toronto
Waddingtons Canada, 12 June 2007, Lot 306

Lot Essay

Classicist at heart yet modernist in rendition, George Keyt is arguably Sri Lanka's most celebrated artist of the Twentieth Century. Although taking inspiration from Cubist principles, Keyt's unique visual idiom also draws from forms rooted in Indic artistic traditions, recalling temple sculptures and the fresco techniques of Ajanta and Sigiriya. "His idiom occasionally carries in it a hint of Picasso but is, once again, in direct line with the traditional styles of Central India, Mewar, and Basohli. But the originality of Keyt's inspiration is undoubted, and his work remains uniquely his own." (R. Bartholomew and S. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1971, p. 27)

Painted in 1947, the year Keyt moved from Kandy to Bombay the painting carries hints of nostalgia for the Kandyan countryside. Placing the undulating contours of the women within the verdancy of the landscape, Keyt conveys the gentle enduring rhythms of peasant life. His bold use of modeling and deployment of geometric fields of color imbues the women with a statuesque quality both modern and timeless.

Keyt's earliest work was distinctly Gauginesque--sumptuous pastorals and figure studies free from overt perspectival abstraction, populated by luxuriant nudes and semi-nudes swaddled in robes, limbs graceful and provocatively intertwined. By the early 1930s, the cubism that would forever alter the character of his paintings began to emerge in his work. Keyt re-invented his craft, adopting and discarding countless subtle variations in style across his seven decade long career.

Keyt's work has been exhibited alongside leading European artists around the world. In 1930 he exhibited at the Zwemmer Gallery in London, alongside Picasso and Braque. He achieved acclaim in India by the 1940s and was the subject of a one-man show in Bombay in 1947 (the year in which this work was painted), which initiated a life-long connection with India's art scene.

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