A brush with colours

The busiest section during this year’s edition of India Art Fair was the Delhi Art Gallery booth with its museum quality display of works by over a dozen modern masters. We look at the reasons why they remain a great investment

While it is no hidden truth that modern masters like MF Husain, FN Souza, SH Raza and KH Ara will continue to remain a great investment, there are other reasons that makes them rule the art world.


“Modern masters have consistently produced work whose aesthetic merit is now publicly acknowledged. They are also academically most sound,” says Sunit Kumar, Director, Kumar Gallery, whose booth at the fair also showcased works by modern masters. Adds Kishore Singh, Head, Exhibitions & Publications, Delhi Art Gallery, “A work of art has to have impeccable grammar. The artist must be a master of his technique. No work of art is created without the artist’s consummate skill in both style and choice of subject.”

Little wonder then, masters can be recognised with just their style — Husain’s cubist strokes, Raza’s ever-evolving Bindu, Ara’s still life works, Sohan Qadri’s lush dyes, among others. New media art – photography, video art, mixed media installations — may have their niche audience, but it is the timelessness of these masters that continues to wow the uninitiated and the connoisseurs alike.

Masters use subjects that everyone connects with. Their work has the ability to evoke emotions


It is often said that there is nothing original in the world of art, yet all great art must be original. And that is where modern masters strike a chord. Take for example, Satish Gujral. As a sculptor, painter and muralist, he has designed his own unique vocabulary of textured material. Or, Amrita Sher-Gil, whoopted for subjects that were vividly local, mostly rural.
Says Singh, “At a time when the 1930s was dominated by two strands of art practice — the British-taught realism and the sentimental stylisation of the Bengal School, she was determined to have a distinctive Indian identity which sprang from the soil.

It is also the difficulty of acquiring such works
which have become scarce in supply that makes them important. For their annual show featuring modern masters and titled Celebration, Kumar Gallery had pulled out some rare works — Husain’s self portrait of 1969, Paysage (1958) by Raza, impastos on paper by Sohan Qadri and Narayan Shridhar Bendre’s oil on canvas titled To The Market (1961). “Rare works are immediately picked up by collectors,” says Kumar. One of the most talked about shows held recently by Dhoomimal Gallery was Carved Contours, featuring never-seen-before works by India’s first modernist-master Jamini Roy.



Whether it is Lalu Prasad Shaw’s minimal anddelicately composed portrait of simple folk, or the totally distinct style of Ganesh Pyne’s intense and brooding portraiture, both have an enduring appeal. Masters use subjects that everyone connects with. Their work has the ability to evoke emotions and this is what makes us revisit the work again and again. Rakhi Sarkar, Director, Cima Gallery, showcased these two Bengal masters in a show at Delhi’s Visual Arts Gallery last month. She says, “One of Pyne’s works which really stands out for me is Dhritrashtra — The Blind King. In this one portrait, he brings forth the tragedy of Mahabharata and this work is a telling comment on human nature, which is relevant even today.” Similarly, one continues to delight in Shaw’s naughty sense of humour evident in portraits of the “bhadralok” Bengali babu.



If you think that only those with deep pockets can buy the masters, consider this: Prints by many of these masters hold equal value both aesthetically and as sound investment. A show of lithographs

Prints by many of these masters hold equal value both aesthetically and as sound investment

by Akbar Padamsee was recently held at Shridharani Gallery in New Delhi by Priyank Jain of Dhoomimal.com. Available at Rs 50,000, these lithos had art lovers queuing up. Manan Relia, Director, Archer Gallery has been a regular at India Art Fair and has similarly found great success with serigraphs in the range of Rs3,000 to Rs 5 lakh.

“For the young collector, buying a painting can be intimidating. Serigraphs of high end, high quality masters is a great option. These are limited editions, authenticated by the artist and have great resale value as well. In a few years, we will find serigraphs surfacing even in art auctions.” No wonder then, Husain himself is quoted to have said, “Serigraphs is for people who have more taste than money.”

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