Untitled (Women on Terrace)

Untitled (Women on Terrace)
signed and dated in Hindi (lower right)
oil on canvas
29 3/4 x 35 3/4 in. (75.6 x 90.8 cm.)
Painted in 1968
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, Bombay, 1969
Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Poland, Traveling Exhibition, 1969

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Lot Essay

Born in Indore in 1910, Narayan Shridhar Bendre was known for his prolific painting practice that included landscapes, portraits and still-lifes rendered in a variety of styles, incorporating innovative experiments with form, composition and perspective. He received a diploma in painting from the School of Art in Indore, and another from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay shortly after. In 1947-48, Bendre travelled to the United States, where he studied graphic art under Armin Landeck at the Art Students League in New York.

Inspired by his travels in the United States, where he was introduced to Euro-American avant-garde movements like Cubism, Impressionism and Expressionism, Bendre attempted to marry these modernist techniques with an Indian sensibility. His compositions featured scenes of India and its people, such as pastoral landscapes and women engaged in labor or at rest. Despite the simplicity of his subject matter, his paintings were uniquely experimental in style.

The present lot depicts a pair of women, seated on what appears to be a terrace, with one combing out the other’s long, black tresses. Although such ‘toilette scenes’ featuring a lady or bride being dressed by an attendant were frequently depicted in traditional Indian painting, Bendre’s fascination with modernism, particularly Cubist techniques, is evident in the way he skews perspective here. While we are presented with a birds-eye view of the women, the terrace where they sit appears to us from a slightly different viewpoint. Additionally, its walls are deliberately angled to misalign with the edges of the painted surface, emphasizing painterly license and the artifice of representation. Like their verdant surroundings, the figures are painted with no extraneous details; their modest features and the simple palette Bendre uses to render them allows the viewer to meditate on the overall composition instead.

Bendre’s contribution to the trajectory of modern Indian art has extended beyond his own artistic practice. In 1950, he was appointed as the Head of the Department of Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda. He was instrumental to the development of the program and had profound influence on an entire generation of Indian modernists who trained under him. He has also won several accolades throughout his long career. He was honored with the Aban-Gagan Puraskar from Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, and the Kalidas Samman award in 1984. He was also awarded the Padma Shri in 1969 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992 for his contributions to the field of Indian art.

The present lot has been in the collection of Dr. Robert and Loraine Mayfield since the early 1970s. Dr. Mayfield was Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography at the University of Texas in Austin, and a member of UT’s Department of Asian Studies. He also served as Provost at Boston University, and its Academic Vice President for External Programs. Dr. Mayfield’s work as an urban geographer led him to travel extensively in India and east Asia, where he developed a love and regard for Indian art. Throughout their lives, Robert and his wife Loraine sought opportunities to support artists by collecting their work, learning their stories, and fostering meaningful connections.

In August of 1969, Robert and Loraine were invited to purchase works for a new gallery opening in Dallas. The gallery would purposefully present art from India, and the artist and editor of the only modern art magazine in India at the time, K.C.S. Paniker, offered to introduce them to India’s most accomplished artists, as he liked the idea of a new sales outlet for them.

In Bombay, Bendre was at the top of their list of artists to meet. Robert and Loraine were invited to visit his home, and they happily agreed. Bendre explained that he was just about to ship an entire show of his paintings to the Soviet Union, where he was invited by the government to exhibit in six cities. The paintings were to be packed for shipment there the next day, but Bendre was willing to sell six of those paintings to them for the Dallas gallery, with delivery after their return from his traveling exhibition.

Robert and Loraine selected six paintings, and a year or so later they were delivered to Dallas via Air India. Enclosed was a note from Bendre saying that the six paintings chosen were the ones most appreciated by the art critics who wrote about his exhibition. The Mayfields acquired the present lot from this group.

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