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


GEORGE KEYT (1901-1993)
signed 'G Keyt' (upper right)
oil on canvas
33 3/8 x 28 in. (84.8 x 71.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1970s
Acquired directly from the artist, circa 1970s
Private Collection, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Gifted by the above to the present owner

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Lot Essay

Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1901, George Keyt’s visual language combined European Modernist movements such as Cubism and Fauvism with South Asian fresco techniques from the Ajanta and Sigiriya caves. His richly colored figurative paintings were also strongly influenced by Buddhist and Hindu myths and iconography.

Keyt is particularly known for his dynamic and evocative paintings of women that reflect the strong influence that traditional Hindu temple sculpture from sites like Khajuraho, Bhubhaneshwar and Konark had on his work. Using bold geometric forms and calligraphic lines, Keyt achieves a "highly personal curvilinear rhythm, contrasting graceful movements, delineation of round and flat forms on the same picture plane and a feeling of highly intense sensuality" (L.P. Sihare, 'Keyt - Asian Painter', George Keyt, A Centennial Anthology, Colombo, 2001, p. 31).

Many of Keyt's works depicted couples from Hindu mythology such as Shiva-Paravati, Ram-Sita and most commonly Krishna-Radha. Besides his paintings, Keyt was also known for his literary works such as his translation of the 12th century Sanskrit poem, Gita Govinda into English and Sinhalese. Gita Govinda celebrates the relationship between the divine Krishna and his gopis (female cow herders), in particular his beloved Radha. The present lot, painted in the 1970s, portrays Krishna rapturously and devotedly looking at Radha who is depicted resting by the river after a bath. “The lyric painting of George Keyt is sensuous Indian poetry brought to canvas. Like earlier Indian painters of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills, and M. F. Husain after him, Keyt takes as his primary theme woman as the focus of man’s concern” (R. Bartholomew and S. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1972, p. 27).

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