PROPERTY OF MR. AVINASH CHOPRA
Gouache on card
8 ⅞ x 9 in. (22.6 x 22.7 cm.)
Signed and dated 'V S Gaitonde / 15-8-1949 / 15th August' on reverse
The current group of early Gaitonde figurative works (lots 25 and 26) are the property of a personal friend of the artist. They were gifted to the current owner by Gaitonde at the beginning of his artistic career in Mumbai.
Mr. Chopra studied Fine Art at the Sir J.J. School of Art from 1949 to 1951. Even though Gaitonde had completed his diploma by then, Mr. Chopra used to meet a group of young artists including Gaitonde, Ara, and Husain at exhibitions and at the Artist Aid Guild, of which they were all members. In his own words, ‘Gaitonde was a friendly though reserved gentleman.’ Their paths separated soon after, as Mr. Chopra joined an advertising agency in 1950. They did, however, remain in touch in those early years, and Gaitonde gifted these works to him shortly after.
This jewel of a work belongs to a small group of figurative works done right after Gaitonde finished studying at the Sir J.J. School of Art in 1948. It illustrates beautifully, his understanding of and interest in Indian miniature paintings, specifically the traditions of Pahari miniatures and Jain paintings. Predictably, even in these formative years, his attention was not drawn toward the narrative, but more toward the stylistic elements and the arrangement and balance of colours in those works. It was Professors Ahivasi and Palsikar at art school, who were largely responsible for familiarising the young Gaitonde with the history and techniques of Indian classical painting as seen in the works of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
In the current work from 1949, he has chosen the ever-popular theme of a nayika sitting and combing her hair, a subject seen often in the miniature painting tradition, most often showing a young lady completing her beauty rituals as she waits in anticipation for her lover. Depicted using simple black lines, she is shown in profile wearing a pale yellow and white outfit with large almond-shaped eyes. The starkness of the outfit is perfectly complemented by her red lips, the red bangles at her wrists and her red hair ornament. His clever use of the same bright red mixed with mustard tones for most of the background further accentuates the central figure and unifies her with her surroundings. The flat perspective and lack of depth, as suggested by the dhurrie that seems to lie partially on the simple mud structure, further helps to merge the painting into one harmonious whole. Both the figure and the surrounding landscape are highly stylised, as seen by the patterns on the trees and the ground.
This ‘manner of painting’, using few colours and stylised forms, lends itself to what Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni terms ‘a vividness throbbing with life’. His use of colours even at this early time made ‘…it easy to predict his eventual journey towards the non-objective world.’ (Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, Gaitonde, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated) Richard Bartholomew also comments on seeing the abstract in these and other works that appear seemingly figurative. ‘Abstract painting is neither more profound nor more complex than naturalistic or expressionistic painting. One has merely to read an Indian miniature from top to bottom and diagonally to be able to see that though the meaning may be literary, the significance that we derive from seeing the storm sky, the flight of herons or the grove of blossoming trees, for instance, is only a part of the total vision that we experience. The colour scheme and the arrangement of forms, etc., are factors and qualities which constitute the theme, and which the theme, as such, articulates. The “memorableness” of the miniature is, in fact an aesthetic experience which is fundamentally and essentially abstract.’ (Richard Bartholomew, ‘The Abstract Principle in the Paintings of Ram Kumar’, Lalit Kala Contemporary 19 & 20, September 1975, p. 13)
Gaitonde himself explains the transition from figuration to non-representational works. ‘Early on, I did both figurative and non-figurative paintings; I was initially influenced by Indian miniatures … [then] I started eliminating the figures and just saw the proportions of colours… I experimented with this because sometimes figures can bind you, restrict your movements. I just took patterns instead. I think that step really marked the beginning of my interest and preoccupation in [non-objective] painting.’ (V.S. Gaitonde in an interview with M. Lahiri, Patriot, September 27, 1985)
About The Artist:
VASUDEV S. GAITONDE (1924 - 2001)