PROPERTY FORMERLY IN THE COLLECTION OF W.G. ARCHER AND M. ARCHER
Oil on canvas
34 1/2 x 16 1/2 in. (87 x 42 cm.)
Signed and dated 'G Keyt / 56' and titled in Devanagari on reverse
Purchased by the Archers from the artist in 1956.
W.G. Archer, India and Modern Art, London, 1959, pl. 57, illustrated.
George Keyt - A Centennial Anthology, Colombo, 2001, p. 86, illustrated.
The current work was commissioned by W.G.Archer in 1955. For a smaller version in the collection of Hilda Naidoo, Colombo, from 1943, see Marg I, no. 2., Mumbai, 1947, p. 66.
'The lyrical painting of George Keyt is sensuous Indian poetry brought to canvas. Like earlier Indian painters of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills, and M. F. Husain after him, Keyt takes as his primary theme woman, as the focus of man's concern. He paints her in flat planes, with bounding lines and a 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.' (Richard Bartholomew and Shiv. Kapur, Husain, New York, 1972, p. 27)
George Keyt was a Dutch-Sinhalese artist who drew much of his inspiration from the various influences that he saw in the ancient art of Sri Lanka and India. His style of working and execution recalled the ancient Sigiriya frescoes in Sri Lanka, whilst his choice of subjects was closely linked to the search for and celebration of love as described in classical Indian poetry. Largely a figurative painter who favoured the female form, his work evolved from a more classical style to one that was characterised by stylised figures depicted with a graceful and free use of line combined with distinctly Cubist elements. Even though Keyt did not travel to Europe like some of his contemporaries, he was introduced to Cubism and other art movements through Western artists and other visitors to Sri Lanka. The current work perfectly illustrates this unique marriage of a traditional subject, Prema, or the 'warmth of love' to Keyt's mature style as seen in the geometric patterning, exaggerated curves and flat planes of colour.
As the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda said prophetically of his work: 'Keyt I think is the living nucleus of a great painter. Magically though he places his colours, and carefully though he distributes his plastic volumes, Keyt's pictures nevertheless produce a dramatic effect... These figures take on a strange expressive grandeur, and radiate an aura of intensely profound feeling.' (W.G. Archer, 'The Early Phase', George Keyt - A Centennial Anthology, Colombo, 2011, p. 22)
The current lot and lot 5 were formerly in the private collection of the pioneering art historians and writers, William George Archer and his wife Mildred Agnes Bell. From 1948, William Archer worked in the Indian Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum for a period of eighteen years, becoming the Keeper Emeritus of the collection. Outside of his work at the museum, he is perhaps best known for his numerous publications including Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills (1973). Likewise, Mildred Archer was invited to work at the India Office Library, where she carried out research on the Indian paintings collection for over 24 years. Their combined careers and publications significantly helped shape our understanding of Indian artistic activity in the period from the late 18th to the early 20th Century. When their art collection was offered at Sotheby’s a few years ago, their approach to collecting was described as 'a rare blend of enthusiasm for a culture and a scholarly encyclopaedic knowledge of their subject.' Although William and Mildred are best known for their interest in Indian Miniatures and Anglo-Indian paintings they also studied and wrote about the work of Contemporary Indian artists, forming close associations with many of the painters as is evidence by lot 5, which was originally a gift from the artist Avinash Chandra to William on his birthday.
# Import duty at 11% will be charged on the hammer price and GST will be applicable on the total amount of the hammer price plus the import duty.
About The Artist:
GEORGE KEYT (1901 - 1993)