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Untitled (Construction)

Untitled (Construction)
signed and dated in Hindi (lower right)
oil on canvas
71 x 35½ in. (180.3 x 90.2 cm.)
Painted in 1987
The Fine Art Resource, Mumbai
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Head of Sale

Lot Essay

Born in Indore in 1910, Narayan Shridhar Bendre studied at the State Art School in the city prior to moving to Bombay to pursue a Government Diploma in Fine Art. Having established himself as an award winning colorist and landscape painter in Bombay, Bendre was hired to serve as Head of the Painting Department at the newly established Faculty of Fine Arts at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, in 1950. In 1959, he was appointed Dean of Faculty.

It was in Baroda that Bendre veered away from the strictures of Academic Realism in his work, instead championing modernist explorations based on the idioms of Post-Impressionism, Expressionism and Cubism. An avid traveler, he gained equal inspiration from his exposure to Western Modernist art during his visits to the United States and Europe as from his travels around India. Bendre left Baroda in 1966 and returned to Bombay where he would live and work for the rest of his life.

A few years later, in the 1970s, the artist began experimenting with his own version of Pointillism, creating complex images using only dots and small horizontal dashes of pigment. Avoiding shadow and traditional ideas of perspective in these works, he conveyed depth by gradually eliminating detail based on his subject’s distance from the viewer instead. While Bendre frequently celebrated the pastoral, depicting India’s rural landscapes and quiet moments of village life in his work from this period, his paintings also responded to his rapidly changing urban environs in Bombay.

In this large painting, the artist depicts a densely populated construction site in the city in his characteristic Pointillist style. Here a series of laborers, several of them migrant women from rural parts of the country, pass cement from a large mixer at the lower edge of the painting up the scaffolding they perch on till it is poured out at the uppermost reaches of the work. Bendre’s nuanced palette of greens and browns underlines the bleak outlook of his subjects, who could never possibly aspire to live in the structures they toil to build. In formatting this painting vertically, the artist perhaps alludes to the several skyscrapers that had shot up all over the city at the time, permanently transforming its skyline. Additionally, his combination of frontal and birds-eye perspectives, masterful use of receding and protruding planes, and elimination of detail in the hazy figures at the upper edge emphasize height and distance in the work.

Speaking about his process, Bendre noted, “for me, the creative process begins with the blank canvas, by the dabbing of paint on it, the aim being to catch the original impact of the total image conceived. Things are nebulous in the beginning, become clearer by manipulating, by the application of more paint, dabbing, scratching, washing off, repainting, till I'm nearer to the original impact” (R. Chatterji, Bendre: The Painter and the Person, Singapore, 1990, p. 63).

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