NATIONAL ART TREASURE - NON-EXPORTABLE ITEM (Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale at the back of the catalogue)
Pencil and watercolour on paper heightened with white and gold
6 1/2 x 4 in. (16.6 x 10.2 cm.)
Vivan Sundaram, Amrita Sher-Gil A Self Portrait in Letters & Writing, New Delhi, 2010, vol.1, illustrated.
'I have been drawing and painted, I think, from my tiniest childhood, and I recollect that the presents I most looked forward to as a child were paint-boxes, coloured pencils, drawing paper, and picture books. Rather independent in spirit even at that age, it will be of psychological interest to note that I detested the process of 'colouring in' the drawings of picture books and never allowed 'grown ups' to draw things for me to colour in... I always drew and painted everything myself and resented correction or interference with my work.' (Yashodhara Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life, New Delhi, 2006, p. 15)
Amrita Sher-Gil showed tremendous talent for drawing and painting from a very young age. From the age of nine, when the family returned to India from Budapest, the young girl was sketching and painting almost constantly. The subject of her works were either European fairy tales that she had read, or her own short stories and poems that she would maintain in a diary with descriptive drawings accompanying them.
The current work is not one from the young Amrita's imagination, but rather an early portrait of her mother in the years immediately following their return to India and their move to Simla, where they would maintain a home for the next several decades. The work belies the artist's age, as there is a wonderful attention to detail accompanied by technically strong elements, unusual in a hand so young. The intricate carving of the screen behind the figure, the dewy, soft colours of the flowers in the vase on the left, echoed in the flowers in Marie Antoinette's hair and in her brooch, and her elegant posture and flowing dress, all indicate a young artist with prodigious talent.
The current work has a distinct European influence to it, again a testament to all Amrita had absorbed as a young girl living in Hungary and on a brief visit to Paris en route to India. Her mother enjoyed entertaining, and their home in Budapest was elegantly appointed with several objet d'arts, books and furniture that obviously stayed with her. Records indicate that even then, at the young age of six, she was already illustrating various fairy tales and writing her own stories. Her father, Umrao Singh, was always an avid photographer and was constantly taking photos of the family. The work bears a strong resemblance to some of his photographs which were often quite theatrical in their composition, incorporating several strong visual and sensory elements. A photograph of her mother taken by her father, for example, shows her languidly posing in a chair, a very similar carved octagonal table with a vase of roses to her left, and more flowers visible in her hair. Even though the photograph may not have been used as a direct reference to the current painting, they seem to share the same mood.
* Antiquity or Art Treasure – Non-exportable Item. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale.
About The Artist:
AMRITA SHER- GIL (1913 - 1941)