5 October 2019

Season of the Mother Goddess & the Divine

The rich pluralistic traditions of India have always seen an intermingling of cultures and faiths. Every creed has found a place here, making the pan-Indian pantheon one that has embraced Hindu gods and goddesses, Christian saints, Islamic beliefs and more. In our November 2019 Traditional, Modern & Contemporary Indian Art auction we are proud to include a number of fine representations of personalities, personages and figures from this vast, all-encompassing divine gallery. A fine painting attributed to Raja Ravi Varma features the Catholic Saint Gonsalo Garcia, magnificent Tanjore depictions of Hindu gods Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman and Vithoba as well as one of Souza’s famed Christ figures. ‘Kali’ by Ramkinkar Baij is yet another example. Giridhar Gowd’s & Padmanabh Bendre’s alluring works on this theme complete the artistic repertoire.

And with 'Durga Pujo' just a few days away, our auction additionally features three stunning paintings of Durga. Each one is a testament to a markedly different style of painting, thus making the works thematically cohesive but visually diverse, an artistic tribute to the protective mother of the universe. 

Durga in different avatars

Baren Basu who originally hails from Bangladesh and has kept a low profile has been feted by the Lalit Kala Akademi as well as internationally. Since he is steeped in Bengali culture, it is fitting that he would choose ‘Ma Durga’, so ingrained in Bengali culture, as a subject. His majestic work (lot 4) features a regal and fearsome Mother Goddess, her ten all-seeing eyes extending outwards and upwards from her head, performing her destructive dance on the body of her nemesis the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. The colours used are muted and earthy, reds, blacks and whites to starkly illuminate the eternal battle of the forces of good versus evil. 

This iconic scene is also immortalised in a magnificent Kalighat painting (lot 8) from the late 19th century, worked upon with diluted earth pigments and watercolour on paper. Kalighat paintings are also native to the Bengal region and thus the choice of subject matter is all but natural. Durga is painted in fiery red that offer a marked contrast against the royal purple, emerald and grey-ish hues of her nemeses. This painting is evoked in a style that is rooted in the folk traditions of the Kalighat school, much different from the distinctive visual language of the Basu painting.

Dhiraj Choudhury was one of the masters of the modern Indian art movement who answered his profound calling for teaching by becoming an educator. Thus, his prodigious output was compounded by his influence as a professor of art. His background is also steeped in Bengali culture, therefore gravitating towards ‘Ma Durga’ is exceedingly fitting. Choudhury incarnates Durga in a visual style that is entirely unique (lot 10). He creates her in a language unto himself. He seems to dip into the contemporary visual language to depict Ma Durga in a towering, statuesque avatar, starkly different in comparison to the other two works in the catalogue. Here, Ma Durga could almost be likened to a protagonist from a graphic novel, surrounded by demons with wide, grotesque grins she is ready to do battle with. 

Infact, every depiction of the Gods, Goddesses & Saints in this auction catalogue, possesses a powerful character, arresting the viewer in how the subject is portrayed in an iconographic language that is individualistic and defined. Each is a celebration of a divine personage and each is evoked with unparalleled artistic vision. 

For details and to register for the auction on 7th & 8th November 2019 please visit our website or download our mobile app from the Google Playstore or Apple Store.

The paintings can by physically viewed from 1st – 3rd November 2019 in New Delhi.

The catalogues can be pre-ordered through our website or by emailing [email protected] with ‘SALE 0020 CATALOGUE' in the subject line.

Related Posts:
1. Manjit Bawa, M.F. Husain and Ravi Varma attribution lead Bid & Hammer's auction - Business Standard, 27 Sep 2019

5 October 2016

Remembering Yusuf Arakkal (1945 - 2016)

Bangalore based Yusuf Arakkal, one of India’s foremost contemporary artists, passed away on 4th October 2016.

Yusuf Arakkal (1945-2016)

He was a renowned figurative artist who focused on the human predicament in our society and empathised with his characters. Multifaceted, he was a man of constant transformation and self discovery. Bid & Hammer in solidarity with the entire art fraternity mourns the loss of the creative genius. 

"There is an anguished being, disturbed and distressed somewhere deep inside me, a human being who yearns for a meaningful existence''. It is the human presence that arouses my attention and steers my creative inner space. I have been committed through my work seeking a definition of my works" - Yusuf Arakkal

Yusuf Arakkal - Face of a girl, 1989
Yusuf Arakkal - Pathway Series, 1983

9 October 2015

Souza's Mary Magdalene revisited

In the light of a similar work becoming the highest selling for an Indian artist

Revisiting a controversial subject can be even more controversial especially if the artist in question is F N Souza, the enfant terrible of Modern Indian Art and now the highest priced Indian artist if one goes by auction results.  The artwork titled ‘Birth’ that apparently sold for Rs 27 crores is an excellent example of how a section of the art fraternity, previously in denial, has now done a complete volte-face by acknowledging the fact that a painting combining three or even four different composite pictures can indeed be a genuine work and a record-breaking one at that.

In the aforementioned context, to dispel Goebbels law — “speak what is untrue several times over and it becomes the truth”, we revisit a similar monumental work from the same period that was chastised as anomalous, weak and suspect simply because it represented all the Souza characteristics – a landscape, Christ and a woman – on one canvas. The work in question is ‘Mary Magdalene’ and it has taken another work called ‘Birth’ to demystify the myth surrounding similar compositions of Souza, which by all accounts were rare but not really unchartered territory. On the contrary in the 1950s, when both these works were executed, Souza was known to have been deploying a specific style of compositional pattern, wherein he divided the visual space into two or three parts. On the top half he usually depicted a distant landscape whereas in the bottom half he presented the protagonists against a flat background, quite reminiscent of the Indian miniature painting traditions. At times he deftly interlinked the two spaces with drips of colour or a simple wedged line. 

'Birth' by F N Souza, 1955

'Mary Magdalene/Crucifixion' by F N Souza, 1956

If “in terms of scale, subject, period and provenance Birth represents the magnum opus of Souza’s career”, the 1956 painting depicting Crucifixion/Mary Magdalene is not far behind as not only its period and provenance but also the subject is of great importance as it freezes the presence of Magdalene on the eve of the hapless night of Crucifixion. All further depictions, labels (Suruchi Chand et al) and conspiracy theories can only be attributed to the significance of the subject, as recurrent themes were a well-documented part of Souza’s oeuvre.

Related Posts:
1. Picture is looking less perfect for Indian art - The Mint, 26 July 2008