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Item Description:


Oil on canvas


53 3/4 x 83 7/8 in. (136.5 x 213 cm.)

Signed 'KKhanna' and indistinctly dated lower right

In 1962, Krishen Khanna received a travelling fellowship from the John D. Rockefeller III Council of Economics and Cultural Affairs. As part of the scholarship programme, Krishen decided to travel to America via the East. He travelled from Kolkata to Dhaka, to Yangon, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and on to Japan. In Japan, he became fascinated with sumi-e paintings, and on his arrival in New York he began to experiment with his own versions of the form.

'He adapted the Sumi-e with its element of unpredictability, to his own purpose. Instead of the direct application of brush and ink on paper, he directed ink and water through channels and folds created in rice paper, which was laid down in a trough. It was as he says a process of courting accidents and inviting the unpredictable.' (Gayatri Sinha, Krishen Khanna A Critical Biography, New Delhi, 2001, p. 88)

The artist's new found interest with sumi-e painting, which eliminated all extraneous imagery from a composition, coincided in artistic terms with the abstract expressionists, whose paintings had become the dominant style in New York shortly before his own arrival. Krishen's work drew the attention of the eccentric art dealer Charles Egan, and in 1965, the artist held a solo show at the Egan Gallery, which generated considerable critical acclaim.

In a recent conversation with the artist, Krishen explains that the current painting evolved out of the sumi-e compositions and was part of a formal exploration into expanding the possibilities of the sumi-e approach to oil paintings. In the current canvas, he worked entirely in raw umber, a pigment usually reserved for compositional drawings that create structure beneath a fully-worked oil. Krishen explains how he experimented with this style of work, before allowing more figural elements to reappear more fully in his compositions. Even here, within the form that is essentially a landscape built up of 'boulders and rubble' elements of the human form are still visible. The ridge of the mountains forms the profile of a face whilst a male torso also appears along the right edge of the canvas. It is for this reason that the artist has termed the work a 'Man-scape'. In the coming few years, the artist will create the gestural works of the Rider series, and the expressionistic forms of his Drowning Girl series. It seems that both the sumi-e paintings and these abstracted explorations in oil provide the artist with the springboard to this period of great artistic sensitivity.


The colours of the original appear very similar to the catalogue illustration. The painting has been recently cleaned. The painting would benefit from re-stretching as the canvas has become loose on the stretcher. Good overall condition.

About The Artist:



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