SaffronArt June Auction 2016 – Husain & Barwe

The SaffronArt 2016 online auction has just commenced.  I find two art works – one by Maqbool Fida Husain and another by Prabhakar Barwe to be very interesting and surely museum quality.

Husain of course is a well known name – some call him the picasso (or the father) of Modern Indian Art. I don’t necessarily agree with the comparison as that title should go to Abanindranath Tagore or perhaps to Jamini Roy. But the gist is correct – he has bought Modern Art to more homes than any other Indian artist. His career spanned many decades from the 1950s to his death in 2011. He was both commercially successful in his lifetime and a prolific painter.  While it is hard to substantiate the number of art works created – it is believed more than 60,000+ art works exist (as per hearsay). In the last couple of decades (of his career) – certainly some large commissioned works were created.

Generally it is believed that for an artist , the best works are created prior to receiving commercial success (there are many exceptions – this is just a generalization).  Certainly in Husain’s case some of his later works seem to be a bit contrived – some were pre-sold art works that lacked in thought or execution (and why not – after all the work is already sold before the paint ever hit the canvas). And while these usually large works make sense in  homes – they cannot be considered to be his museum quality works.

mf husain saffronart June 2016

The Husain portrait in the current SaffronArt auction is different – its rare !! A (very) thick impasto portrait done in 1963. This is only the second of such works that I have seen (another is with DAG Modern).  A very unusual work. Interestingly this last came to auction in June 1998 at Sothebys with a low estimate of GBP 3000, but was unsold – coming to auction again after 18 years. I have looked at Osianama and also searched auction listings to see if other similar works (surely an experiment by Husain) were made at that time  – I cant seem to find any !

Another favourite is the Prabhakar Barwe enamel on canvas.  I have studied Barwe in depth and can tell you that this is just an amazing work.

Prabhakar Barwe Mythical Reality

The work is titled Mythical Reality. The sheen of the enamel does not quite appear in the image – this work should NOT have appeared in an online auction , but in the live sale. Prabhakar Barwe was not a prolific artist – apparently just around 12 solo-shows (one with Pundoles and mostly with Chemould). I have had a gallerist mention to me how he used to take months to conceptualize and execute a work. The Barwe estate suggests that there are less than a hundred canvas works created by him.

What is interesting about Barwe is that he did not conform to any particular style. The name of the above painting Mythical Reality would suggest surrealism. But he has been called figurative by one of his own gallerists and as an abstractionist by others. Using the words of an art critic who I admire and with whom I had a discussion on Barwe (but who I cannot name as I have not asked for permission)

Barwe‘s work challenges our definitions and the conceptual tools we work with, exposing their limitations. The notions of ‘abstractionist’ and ‘figurative’ are, at best, operational conveniences – Barwe, among other artists, demonstrates how they lose their ability to illuminate what we are looking at. Indeed, we need to develop a new critical vocabulary to attend to work like his.

Barwe died prematurely in 1996 from pneumonia  (attended to by no less than Neville Tulli). I would consider him contemporary to Vasudeo Gaitonde and an artist who somehow has not received his due.

Indrajit Chatterjee

Disclaimer: I have no commercial (direct or indirect) interest in either of the two works displayed above.  I do own both Husain and Barwe.

Image Credit: 1 2

Leave a Reply