GEORGE KEYT (1901-1993)
THE ESTATE OF KEKOO AND KHORSHED GANDHY Property from the Collection of Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy and Behroze Gandhy
GEORGE KEYT (1901-1993)

Untitled (Reflection)

GEORGE KEYT (1901-1993)
Untitled (Reflection)
signed and dated 'G. Keyt 1947' (upper left); bearing Yamato Japan label (on the reverse)
oil on board
47 3/8 x 28½ in. (120.3 x 72.4 cm.)
Painted in 1947
N. Tuli, Indian Contemporary Painting, Singapore, 1997, p. 105 (illustrated)
B. Jahan, Abstraction in Indian Painting: Post Independence Era, New Delhi, 2008, pl. 2 (illustrated, unpaginated)
Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art, Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues, August-October 2005
Seoul, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues, November 2005-January 2006
Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues, February-April 2006
Paris, Maison de la culture du Japon, Cubisme: l'autre rive: Resonances en Asie, May-July 2007

Lot Essay

"[...] Keyt takes as his primary theme woman as the focus of man's concern. He paints her in flat planes, with bounding lines and rich warmth of colour. 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.S. Kapur, Husain, Abrams, New York, 1971, p. 27)
George Keyt did not start painting until he was 26, but he quickly went on to become arguably Sri Lanka's most celebrated 20th Century artist . Keyt painted this work in 1947, both a pivotal year for the Partition of the subcontinent and the formation of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group. From the flattened elements and cubist vocabulary seen in this work it is evident that Keyt had already at this stage developed a mature, unique visual dialect that combined European Modernist innovations with the ancient South Asian fresco techniques found at Sigiriya and Ajanta. It was Picasso's Cubism with its fractured planes and multiple perspectives that influenced Keyt's aesthetic from the 1930s onwards. According to Keyt it was, Charles Freegrove Winzer, the Ceylon Governments' Inspector of Art, who first introduced him to the European Modern masters that would forever change his pastoral style. "Winzer provided a window into a fresh and unfamiliar world of painting. He introduced them [and fellow '43 Group members] to the work of the Impressionists; to Pissarro, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh; and Picasso and Matisse." (G. Keyt quoted in, N. Weereratne 43 Group: A Chronicle of Fifty Years of Art in Sri Lanka, p. 16)

In this painting, Keyt confronts the Cubist notion of multiple perspectives by playfully placing the seated woman in front of a mirror and capturing her reflected form. Despite his clear admiration for Cubist and Fauvist principles, Keyt's subject matter, sentiment and treatment of figures remained rooted in the vernacular and traditions of his native Sri Lanka.

"Keyt I think is the living nucleus of a great painter. In all his works, there is the moderation of maturity. [His] figures take on a strange expressive grandeur, and radiate an aura of intensely profound feeling." (W.G. Archer, India and Modern Art, London, 1959, p. 124)

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