Souza's paintings are known for primarily emphasising the dark and depressive side of society
Indian paintings are inspired by different aspects. When it comes to selling at an auction, they can go for staggering amounts.
If you thought million dollar price tags were commanded only by European masters, then it is time to refresh your knowledge of art. Indian paintings have reached record-breaking prices in the last two years.
The ‘Artery Top 50 Artists’ list the leading artists based on turnover since 1965.
Indian artwork was first included in a mainstream international auction during the mid-1960s. Over time, many Indian paintings have sold for eye-watering amounts.
Their collective amount? £290 million.
India’s most renowned artists are respected for their works which have made it into the history books. Their work has received million dollar cheques.
We explore the most expensive Indian paintings and the artists behind their masterpieces.
‘Birth’ – Francis Newton Souza
‘Birth’, by Goa-born artist Francis Newton Souza is the most expensive Indian painting when it sold for over £3.1 million (31 crores) in New York in 2015.
Souza’s painting is one of his most important works when he moved to London during the early 1950s.
It was painted in 1955 and included in his first solo show at the Gallery One in London.
Souza’s paintings are known for primarily emphasising the dark and depressive side of society.
The painting represents the pain a pregnant woman experiences while giving birth to her child.
The landscape, visible through the open window of the bedroom, is a representation of the area of London where Souza lived until his death in 2002.
“Birth” outlines all of the subjects of Souza’s early practices. These include the pregnant lady laying down nude with hairpins. The non-fictional man in a priest’s tunic. Still life on the window shelf and, beyond the window and a townscape with corniced buildings and tall towers.
An untitled painting by Vasudeo Gaitonde sold at an auction by Christie’s art gallery for £2.6 million (26 crores) in 2013.
A widely revered Indian painter, Gaintode’s artwork mirrors his experimental spirit, both in terms of form and colour.
Gaitonde’s work includes an intrinsic structure and control in the core of its apparently free-flowing stream of consciousness.
His paintings bring new innovations with the subtle poise of light, texture, colour and space.
‘Saurashtra’ – Syed Haider Raza
Syed Haider Raza’s piece sold for £2.7 million (27 crores) at a 2010 London auction.
Raza was a founding member of the Bombay Progressive Artist’s group.
He earned global prominence in Paris in the late 1950s and 60s after moving to France in 1950.
In 1983, he painted ‘Saurashtra’, a pivotal work that belongs to a key period in Raza’s profession.
The painting depicts the beauty of the Gujarati coastal landscape.
Raza worked primarily in Ecole de Paris and Abstract Expressionism. In later years, he started integrating vital components of his Indian childhood and traditional legacy in his artwork.
Raza makes use of specific shapes and colours in his artwork to symbolize different facets of nature’s creation
‘Saurashtra’ is a perfect fusion of various motifs that Raza embarked upon during the course of his long career.
It conjures up the beauty of the landscape and natural environment, gesture and manifestation, and geometry and spiritualism altogether in one canvas.
The untitled painting sold for £2.5 million (25 crores) in London in 2011. The creation depicts a human figure reclining on a hand-pulled rickshaw in blocks of greys, reds and saffron.
Mehta, a key member of the Bombay Progressive Artist’s group, like Raza, drew inspiration from his annual summer holidays spent at his grandmother’s house in Kolkata. The rickshaw puller being a focal point for his inspiration.
It became an important inspiration for his early paintings.
His compassion for the ground poverty, struggle and torture of the rickshaw puller is evident in this painting.
In addition to the Rickshaw Puller, Mehta has several other million dollar paintings to his credit. These include Mahisasura, Kali, and Untitled – Falling Bull amongst others.
Self-Portrait – Amrita Sher-Gil
Amrita Sher-Gil’s self-portrait sold for £2.2 million (22 crores) in 2015. As a result, she set new records and is widely considered India’s greatest female painter.
The portrait was created during her teenage years.
Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913 to a Sikh father and Hungarian mother. She spent her time living between Europe and India.
Her time in Europe and India shows in her works. They take influence from the Bengal School of Art, Pahari School Painting, and European styles.
‘Wish Dreams’ – Arpita Singh
The abstract figurative composition by Arpita Singh sold for £1.7 million (17 crores) at a Saffronart organised auction in 2010.
This painting is one of Singh’s most important works’ and took more than three years to complete.
The painting consists of 16 individual canvas panels and similarities to Buddhist Thangka paintings and Kantha work.
It has two women symbolising goddess-like beings. They direct the rest of the painting’s diverse cast of characters and everyday objects such as cars, planes and guns.
The painting symbolizes the wishes and dreams of a woman within society and how these are related to other women through rituals.
Singh is known for her figurative work.
She draws inspiration from women’s private and public lives and external elements that influence them.
Singh often includes simple objects, such as guns, flowers, telephones, to express her perspective.
‘Battle of Ganga and Jamuna’ – M F Husain
Known as the ‘Picasso of India’, Husain’s 1972 piece was purchased for £1.2 million (12 crores) in 2008.
The inspiration derives from Hindu mythology and depicts the battle between right and wrong.
Contrasting dark and bright colours are frequent in Husain’s work.
He also presents a cubist style, first invented by Picasso and one of the most influential art styles of the 20th Century.
These are the 10 most costly Indian paintings sold at an auction and are just a mere sample of many more paintings by these artists.