Except otherwise stated, all results include the premium.
See also : India
Chronology : 1973
1933 Self Portrait
2015 SOLD for $ 2.9M by Sotheby's
Amrita painted intensely during those Parisian years, mostly self-portraits and portraits of friends. She observes her own transition from teenager to adulthood, which is also a passage from shyness to energy and from family life to the free life of Parisian students and artists. She analyzes her feelings with a high psychological curiosity, whilst complacently stating that her supreme model is Van Gogh.
On October 6 , 2015, Sotheby's sold for £ 1.75M a self portrait, oil on canvas 55 x 46 cm, lot 18. She was 18 years old and her personality was becoming radiant. She reddened her thick lips and displayed her somehow plenty teenage appearance. The loose necklace gives an impression of spontaneity that contrasts nicely with her static attitude.
A self portrait in profile, oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm also painted in 1931, was sold for £ 1.76M by Christie's on June 10, 2015, lot 11. She is now a coquettish young woman promised in marriage to a young man by her family and loved by another. The profile has the meaning of her new attitude, now proud of herself and enjoying to be coveted. The empty bowl on the table before her is the past that she no longer watches.
Amrita admires Gauguin's tribute to the beauty of Tahitian women. In the Art Déco period, she also retains the expressive power of stylization, which will be increasingly visible in her own style after she returned to India in 1934.
On March 18, 2015, Sotheby's sold for $ 2.9M from a lower estimate of $ 1.2M a self-portrait signed Rita, lot 1336. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This oil on canvas 46 x 33 cm was painted in 1933 while she had her summer time in Hungary. Aged 20, Amrita shows herself as a welcoming and even enticing young woman, with her direct gaze, broad smile and heavily reddened lips.
Less known internationally than Frida Kahlo, Amrita is one of the women who best appreciated and influenced the avant-garde of her time. She is one of the nine artists whose works were classified National Art Treasures in 1972 by an official act of the Government of India, leading to a ban on the permanent leaving of any of her works.
1937 The Story Teller
2023 SOLD for INR 62 crores (worth US$ 7.4M) by Saffronart
Her palette becomes dominated by the reds and browns of her ancestral ground. She now desires to express the essence of traditional Indian life, physiognomies and attires through her perfect control of the European technique of the oil on canvas. Local characters display a grave expression exacerbated by her deep compassion for rural poverty. The simplified forms have been compared to Gauguin's. Her outdoor compositions are rare.
Story telling is a logical theme to Amrita Sher-Gil looking for the roots of Indian rural behavior. Such activity in the village is made obsolete by the broadcasting.
The Story Teller, oil on canvas 59 x 74 cm painted in 1937, was sold for INR 62 crores worth at that time US $ 7.4M from a lower estimate of INR 28 crores by Saffronart on September 16, 2023, lot 13. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. It is classified as a non-exportable national art treasure.
The scene is staging a group of women in a house yard. The woman seated on a chair on the left is the teller and the woman on her side who does not look at her is certainly her assistant. The group of listeners is made of four women seated in various postures plus a sheep, a calf and a dog. There is no place for men in the scenery : the only male figure is going away through a door.
The Evening Sale also achieved #worldrecords for 'The Story Teller', 1937, by Amrita Sher-Gil, which sold for Rs 61.8 crore, making it the highest value achieved for a work by the #artist in #auction worldwide and the most expensive #Indian #artwork sold in auction globally. pic.twitter.com/0MVbP0Uvbn— Saffronart (@Saffronart) September 18, 2023
1938 In the Ladies' Enclosure
2021 SOLD for INR 38 crores (worth US$ 5.1M) by Saffronart
It was sold for INR 38 crores worth at that time US $ 5.1M from a lower estimate of INR 30 crores by Saffronart on July 13, 2021, lot 13.
1955 Birth by Souza
2015 SOLD for $ 4.1M by Christie's
In the same year, the most important work by Souza is titled Birth. This oil on panel 122 x 244 cm was sold for $ 4.1M from a lower estimate of $ 2.2M by Christie's on September 17, 2015, lot 709.
The anti-religious concern of the artist at that time enables to interpret this scene as a pastiche of the Christian Nativity. The atmosphere of the apartment is dark like a barn but the urban landscape of Hampstead where Souza then tried to live is visible through a structure resembling the stained glass windows of a church.
The pregnant woman is nude. Her hemispherical belly is close to the explosion. The bearded man in liturgical garments on the left of the image does not care for her. She is not appealing. He is the image of sin, or perhaps a self-portrait. The focal point of Souza against the Christian religion is the hypocrisy of redemption. The texture of the naked body is a cracked indecipherable graffiti which adds to the abjection of the scene, anticipating Twombly.
Critics see Manet's Olympia as a model for this woman by Souza. I would instead be tempted to recognize the Venus of Urbino, a symbol of fertility and thus indirectly of sin painted by Titian, one of the top Christian artists.
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1972 Tapovan by Raza
2018 SOLD for $ 4.45M by Christie's
Raza expresses the mystery of the soil, like Pollock. In the early 1970s he dares to address the dangers of the night. On March 21, 2018, Christie's sold for $ 4.45M Tapovan, acrylic on canvas 160 x 189 cm painted in 1972, lot 222.
Tapovan is a Sanskrit word used in yoga, mixing the ideas of meditation and forest. Glowing red areas and bright yellow sparks dot the night scene. A careful inspection suggests the appearance of faces within flames and embers, not without evoking the expressive schematization of his fellow F.N. Souza.
If this interpretation is correct, it is exceptionally rare in Raza's usually dehumanized art and brings Tapovan closer to the primordial questions of the wild tribes and of Gauguin : D'où venons-nous ? Qui sommes-nous ? Où allons-nous ? And also : who are these spirits of the night ?
Raza will soon find an answer to this anxiety. An admirer of Rothko, he will systematize the inclusion of his abstract forms into a structure which in his case begins as a window. He abandons the night but not the ground and gives in the later phases of his career the main role to the essential form, the bindu.
1973 La Terre by Raza
2014 SOLD for $ 3.1M by Christie's
The bright lights of the transition between night and day are not enough to express his philosophical quest. Joining Pollock, his actual subject is the proper life of the soil.
On March 18, 2014, Christie's sold for $ 3.1M La Terre, acrylic on canvas 189 x 189 cm.
Painted in 1973, this work did not yet open the great transition of the art of Raza. Rather, it is the ultimate culmination of his landscapes becoming totally abstract while keeping the memory of the sparkling dawn.
Later, Raza discovered how geometry can express the energy. He will forget the night, and his colors become clearer. His quest will more rely upon the principles of Hindu philosophy. The Earth as the unique support of our relationship with the universe remains however implicit in his work.
1983 Saurashtra by Raza
2010 SOLD for £ 2.4M by Christie's
The strong points of his compositions are simple geometric shapes, often sharp but hung by a rich mixture of colors, as if the universe revolved around anchors inspired by the third eye of wisdom.
Executed in 1983, an acrylic on canvas entitled Saurashtra, 2 x 2 m, is a highlight of the art of Raza at that time. This artwork was sold for £ 2.4M from a lower estimate of £ 1.3M by Christie's on June 10, 2010.
On March 23, 2010, Christie's sold Gestation, another acrylic, for $ 1.2M. This 1989 work is simpler and smaller, exactly 1 x 2 m, but its inspiration is similar to that of Saurashtra.
1989 Kali by Mehta
2018 SOLD for US $ 4M (worth INR 26.4 crores) by Saffronart
His painting is minimalist while remaining figurative. The simple lines of the naked bodies border the flat planes in pure pastel-type hues. Beyond the character, woman, man or androgynous, his art invites for a meditation on human condition and meaning of life.
After a serious illness Mehta becomes an artist in residence in 1983 in Santiniketan in Bengal for a period of two years. In the intellectual and cultural environment of this city founded by Rabindranath Tagore his art changes forever when he mixes the Hindu mysticism with his own metaphysical quest. His diaphanous characters become reincarnations of Hindu goddesses whose morphology and powers are unlimited.
The rickshaw has long been for Mehta an abject symbol both by the enslavement of the puller and by the confinement of the seated character. In 1984 the figure in the shadow of the machine is no longer a naked woman but a divinity who exhibits her three legs in sunlight. This oil on canvas 150 x 120 cm was sold for £ 1.97M by Christie's on June 9, 2011.
Mehta begins to express that humanity needs more than ever the return of Durga, the primordial warrior goddess who uses violence to offer peace with her eight to sixteen arms.
The nude female creature sitting on the floor with two heads, two bodies, four arms and two legs is a peaceful Annunciation of Durga. The bull's head in front of her is both an emanation of the slaughterhouse and a memory of Durga's ultimate victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura.
This oil on canvas 150 x 105 cm also painted in 1984 prefigures the epic themes of the later career of Mehta. It was sold for $ 1.76M by Christie's on March 21, 2012 and for INR 17.8 crores worth US $ 2.96M on August 23, 2017 by AstaGuru, lot 20.
Back in Mumbai he starts a new phase of his career, gradually integrating in bright colors the extreme violence deployed to overcome evil by the two emanations of Parvati, Kali and Durga.
The image of Kali with a blue skin is recognizable by any connoisseur of Hindu mythology. An oil on canvas 170 x 137 cm painted in 1989 was sold by Saffronart for $ 4M worth INR 26.4 crores from a lower estimate of $ 3M on June 14, 2018, lot 33.
The goddess with a Prussian blue skin is standing in an attitude of extreme physical strength, legs apart ready for fight. Another body appears as a defeated victim while a pure white hand reaches her fertile belly, symbol of her role of rebirth after destruction. Kali was so strong that she once trampled the good god Shiva. The scarlet red hanging tongue expresses her shame after this awkwardness.
Tyeb Mehta painted very few Kali figures in full length. He will prefer the epic brawl of Durga with the demon Mahishasura.
2000 Fall of the Ox by Mehta
2018 SOLD for INR 20 crores (worth US$ 3.2M) by AstaGuru
This artwork brings together the two preferred themes of the artist, the bull and the fall.
Disgusted in his youth by the death of oxen in the slaughterhouses, Mehta takes the bovine as the symbol of the vanity of the mankind, from the tortured innocence to the most crazy violence for which the beast takes the features of the demon-buffalo Mahishasura in fight with Durga.
More recent in his art the theme of the fall appears in the late 1980s. A bull or bird is tightly entwined with a human being in a hopeless weightlessness.
In the painting coming for sale the bovine is fat and strangely peaceful, upturned body and four legs upwards. It has no eyes, as blind as the cut head placed in front of Durga in other compositions. A leg and the tail are interchanged. Two hands coming out from below are the only human attributes in this almost invisible embrace.
2007 Bulls by Mehta
2023 SOLD for $ 3.6M (worth INR 29.3 crores) by Saffronart
This diptych features in each 198 x 152 cm element the silhouette of a beef cut in three falling pieces. The tail is over and the horned head is below. It was so monumental that he could not position them side by side in his small workshop.
The robes of the bulls are a monochromatic deep brown, over a light background. Both elements are quite similar, certainly to assess that all individuality is scraped by the common destiny to the slaughterhouse. In modern life, humans are not better treated. Keeping the bull as a symbol, the artist never forgot the violence of humans on humans of the 1947 partition riots in India when he was 22 years old. Mortality is indeed Mehta's lifelong theme.
This acrylic on canvas was sold for $ 2.8M by Christie's on March 23, 2011, lot 550. and for $ 3.6M (worth NR 29.3 crores) by Saffronart on June 29, 2023, lot 49. Please watch the video shared by Saffronart.