Souza’s tribute to Tagore highlight of Indian auction

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NEW DELHI - Encouraged by the recovery of the art market after a slowdown of 30 months, a leading Bangalore-based auction house has lined up rare art works of Indian modern and contemporary artists like Raja Ravi Varma, Rabindranath Tagore, Nikolai Roerich, M.F. Husain, Jamini Roy and F.N. Souza for an auction here Nov 30.

A tribute to Rabindranath Tagore by F.N. Souza will occupy a pride of the place at the auction titled “Significant Indian Paintings’ Sale 0007″ by auction house Bid and Hammer.

The composition, an oil on canvas, is an impression of the poet’s bearded profile in lucid strokes that ends up resembling a dancing crane.

Painted in 1972 and sourced from a private French collector, the work is estimated at Rs.7.5 lakh (over $16,400).

It is a rare work by Souza and assumes significance in view of the poet’s 150th birth anniversary in 2011, Maher Dadha, chairman and managing director of Bid and Hammer, told IANS here Tuesday.

A series of three art works, including a stylised letter explaining his art, by the Nobel-laureate, who was an accomplished artist, stands out for their mastery of style and language.

A work, “Zoomorphic Form”, combines features from diverse species of birds and animals to create a queer avian creature that is a trademark of Tagore’s complex zoomorphic forms straddling the zoological survival chain.

Painted in waterproof ink on paper, the curious being has alert eyes, a long beak, a curved crest, a camel hump, a pronounced fish-tail and two rounded heavy feet. Priced at Rs.1 million the work has been sourced by the auctioneers from a retired teacher in Shantiniketan, who acquired it in the mid-1970s.

A composition Face of A Lady and a letter written by the poet explaining his art, are estimated at a combined Rs.1.6 million. The woman’s face painted in dark sombre shades represents the poet’s oeuvre of female figurative composition characterised by ovoid facial contours and an expressionistic style.

The poet was inspired by diverse forms such as Indian folk art and European expressionism of the 19th century. His imagination was particularly kindled by German expressionists Max Pechstein and Ernst Ludwig Kirschner.

In his ruminations about his complex image-making, the poet explains, First, there is a hint of a line, then the line becomes a form…this creation of form is an endless wonder. If I were a fanatical artist, I would have followed a pre-conceived idea in making a picture…but it is far more exciting when the mind is seized by something far more exciting outside of it, some compulsive outside element gradually assuming a form.

Another series of unusual art-related works is artist S.H. Raza’s early letters to his ‘guruji (mentor)’ which talks about his ‘black surya’ or his black bindu (dot inspired by the power of the sun), Dadha said.

The letters have been sourced from Nagpur, where Raza studied as a youth at the Nagpur College of Art.

This auction will offer other rare works of lesser-known practitioners of early 19th and 20th century modernism.

These include the Tanjore style portraiture of Maharaja Serfoji II, embellished with gomedhaks by Raja Ravi Varma; Jamini Roys female nude on canvas from his early explorations of post-impressionism, Souzas “Crucifixion” depicting Mary Magdelene alongside the slain Christ, and Rorerich’s Himalayan landscapes.

For the last 30 months the market for Indian modern and contemporary art was not ripe. We last auctioned Indian art in June 2008 after which we were concentrating on other areas of art like memorabilia and architecture. But with the market corrections, prices of contemporary art have come down to realistic figures. The market has also grown with foreign buyers purchasing Indian art…hence the auction, Dadha said.

The lots are priced between Rs.20,000 and Rs.1.75 crore. The auction opens for preview Wednesday in the capital.

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