The Contradictions In Ganesh Pyne’s Oeuvre

The “contradiction” in Ganesh Pyne‘s oevre refer to the change in style (theme) which occurred around the time of his marriage to Meera di in the 90s. And the discussion around “Early Pyne” vs. “Late Pyne” which in my opinion also distills down to the same issue .

Ganesh Pyne was obsessed with death – and in fact some of his highest realizations include

Christies Mumbai 2013, $370,000
Christies New York 2008, $120000
Christies London 2007, $99000

In contrast to 

AstaGuru, March 2016, $350000
Sothebys, March 2014, $125000

While it is hard to exactly pin point – critics do say that Pyne’s art pre-mid-1990s was darker . Post his marriage the sadness, the obsession with death seemed to reduce. An esteemed auctioneer recently said –

this darker art is also his better art


Sad Artists Make Better Art

As per Jogen Chowdhury

His late marriage to Meeraboudi (90s) changed him. Before marriage, he had told me that he was tired and would work no more. But marriage brought about a change in his life. He went on to work on several more masterpieces, enjoyed a comfortable life full of adda and gaaner ashor in Santiniketan and also started wearing more colourful kurtas

There is the related issue often brought up by collectors – of preferring early/vintage Pynes or Late Period Pynes (mostly 2000-2010 ). Certainly many of his Mahabharata series (which have not appeared in auction thus far – most likely as they are owned by CIMA) were created in 2009 and are superb

The Arrow, 2009
White Hands , 2009

Is Early Pyne vs. Late Pyne truly a change in style or simply diversity in an artists oeuvre ?

The Torch, 2009

An unanswerable question , I think.

Ganesh Pyne Is Rare

Regardless , he is scarce – certainly his ‘tempera on canvas’ is rare. And we can glean this from information present in two books.  Ella Datta’s book (which tries to document all his works since the 50s) lists less than 80 tempera on canvas/board works till 1999. In the book “Ganesh Pyne’s Mahabharata” which has works from 2009 and 2010, another eight are documented – all done in 2009. I really doubt more that 250 or so ‘tempera on canvas’s were created.

I do think that auction valuations are driven by collectors. It is a well known fact that esteemed collectors like Kito and Jane De Boer prefer the 60/70s works like ‘the assasin’ .

The Assasin
The Whisper

However , the Indian sensibility may be a bit different. Here we do not take art for what it is – simply – ‘art’. We associate art with Vastu, Karma, etc. and with everything around us.

Bottomline is – to each his own. Pyne is a superb artist and his works are limited. It hardly matters in my opinion whether the work is a “early period” or a “late period” work – rather the quality, the theme – in addition to the collectors interest is what is of importance.

Indrajit Chatterjee

Disclaimer: I do own one of the works pictured above


Ganesh Pyne – His Life & Times By Ella Datta

Jottings Works By Ganesh Pyne (CIMA)

Jottings & Paintings of Ganesh Pyne (Arun Ghose)

Ganesh Pyne And His Mahabharata (CIMA)

Art of Bengal – A Vision Defined – CIMA


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