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Item Description:


Oil on canvas


62 1/4 x 82 1/4 in. (157.8 x 208.6 cm.)

Signed 'K Khanna' lower left

In 1953, Krishen Khanna moved with his family to Chennai, today known as Chennai. During his time in Chennai, his paintings reveal a preference for a predominantly white and brown palette, hinting at the southern light. Krishen painted women in many forms and postures that are familiar to the Nayika tradition of classical Indian painting, but the paintings retain a certain detachment.

During the same period, Carnatic musicians frequented their home and Krishen’s interest in Carnatic music evolved. ‘It was to be a period of personal contentment and greater lyricism than Krishen had ever expressed before in painting… The well entrenched classical music and dance cultural elite of Madras welcomed the young family. Narayana Menon, a music savant was instrumental in introducing him to all the leading musicians. These included Palghat Mani Iyer, the great mridangam player.. the flautist Mahalingam, T. N. Krishnan the violinist and several others.’ (Gayatri Sinha, Krishen Khanna, A Critical Biography, New Delhi, 2001, p. 48)

The artist’s interest in Carnatic music inspired him to produce a series of paintings that transformed the rhythm and lyricism of classical musical traditions into brush movements on canvas. The current painting, although created a decade or so later, continues the theme that we see first in paintings from the mid 1950s such as Trio and Quartet with Flautist Mahalingam. The figures that appear in the works from the fifties are outlined in thick bold black outlines, enclosing tones of brown and umber. By the mid-1960s, the formal structure of the painting has dissolved and more gestural strokes appear.

This move to a more gestural approach may have partly been inspired by the arrival in India of the American art critic Clement Greenberg who spoke in New Delhi at the Two Decades of American Painting exhibition. ‘As the high priest of abstract expressionism and the chief spokesman of the art of Jackson Pollock, Greenberg served as an interpreter of American Abstract expressionism even in distant India… Greenberg related the rise of Pollock directly to the industrialisation of America, and in post-Independence India the urgent thrust towards modernity created in the minds of many artists the desire to ally precisely with such an expressly post industrial art.’ (ibid., p. 81)

About The Artist:


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