Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1901, George Keyt studied at Trinity College in Kandy. The unmistakable visual language that Keyt developed over the course of his career combined influences from European Modernist movements such as Cubism and Fauvism with those from the ancient South Asian frescoes he saw at the Ajanta and Sigiraya caves. The artist was also strongly influenced by Buddhist and Hindu ethos and iconography.
Keyt is particularly known for his dynamic and evocative paintings of women. This early painting from 1936 portrays a voluptuous nude female figure resting by the sea, and reflects the strong influence that traditional Hindu temple sculpture from sites like Khajuraho, Bhubhaneshwar and Konark, as well Cubist painting techniques had on his formative 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)
In the present lot, the reclining nude with her eyes closed seems to be in a dream-like state, and bears resemblance to female figures in Keyt’s Rati and Lovers from the same period, which were inspired by Hindu mythological couples. Writing about his work, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda noted, "Magically though he places his colors, and carefully though he distributes his plastic volumes, Keyt's pictures nevertheless produce a dramatic effect, particularly in his paintings of Sinhalese people. These 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)