"I want you to imbibe as much joy on viewing my paintings, as I did while creating them." (V. S. Gaitonde in an interview with M. Lahiri, Patriot, 27 September 1985) PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF A GENTLEMAN


signed and dated in Hindi and bearing Bombay Art Society label (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
24 x 20 1/8 in. (61 x 51.1 cm.)
Painted in 1958
Formerly in the Collection of Bal Chhabda
D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, New Delhi, 1983, pl. 17 (illustrated)
Bombay, Bombay Art Society, circa 1960s

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Umah Jacob
Umah Jacob

Lot Essay

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde's present painting from 1958 represents a landmark that epitomises the modern master's enduring journey of experimentation and discovery. This canvas is one of the first examples of Gaitonde's radical shift to a fundamentally non-objective form of art. Figures and recognisable forms give way in favour of a deeper fascination with light and colour. As the critic Holland Cotter states, "He [Gaitonde] learned to use color as an independent expressive element and to break representational forms down to their abstract core. In doing so, he revealed an important historical truth: Indian painting had always been, fundamentally, about abstraction". (H. Cotter, 'An Indian Modernist With a Global Gaze' The New York Times, January 2015)

This work is an antecedent to Gaitonde's minimalist abstract landscapes from later in his career, seen in the bold expanses of colour which both literally and physically make up the building blocks for this abstract image. These blocks of colour "perform a stylistic function by organising the formal tensions in the available space and by quietly dramatising the interplay of light, texture and space." (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated).

Gaitonde's experimental resolve was as much in the mind as with the brush. His departure from figuration represented a monumental shift not only in his own aesthetics but in the entire process of creating an artwork. As Cotter points out, Gaitonde "said himself that much of his efforts as an artist was in the realm of thinking, planning, trying things out. After what appeared to be unproductive periods - he averaged only five or six paintings a year - he suddenly plunged ahead, letting accident have a hand". (H. Cotter, 'An Indian Modernist With a Global Gaze')

Gaitonde's compositions offer new readings with every viewing, the layers of colour and light bubble to the surface. The configuration of these blocks of colour are arranged as if elements of a musical score. These browns, yellows and blues of the present painting create harmonic synergetic symphonies. During the late 1950s, Gaitonde had a studio at the Bhulabhai Desai Road among fellow painters, thespians, musicians and dancers. He thrived in this interdisciplinary environment and was very fond of Indian classical music and dance. In this exemplar of modernity, the colourful abstracted forms build and move in harmony conveying moods and thoughts similar to the beats in music and the steps of a dance sequence. However, what resonates in this painting is the idea of tranquillity. In this pivotal painting, Gaitonde becomes for the first time a painter of silence.

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