Amrita Sher-Gil’s work brings in Rs 37.8 cr, the second highest after Gaitonde’s

A painting by Amrita Sher-Gil, In the Ladies’ Enclosure (1938), sold for 37.8 crore rupees ($ 5.14 million) at the Saffronart auction house in Mumbai on Tuesday. It is the highest work of art produced by the artist in an auction and the second most expensive piece of art by an Indian.

Untitled (1961) by VS Gaitonde, sold for Rs 39.98 crore in March of this year at Saffronart, remains an Indian artist’s most expensive. Sher-Gil’s previous record was Rs 18.7 crore for The Little Girl in Blue (1934) at Sotheby’s auction in Mumbai in 2018, according to the art market information company Artery India.

Sher-Gil is India’s most famous female artist and recognized by the Indian government as a “National Treasure,” an honor that makes it illegal to take her art out of the country. The Indo-Hungarian artist died in 1941 at the age of 28.

Saffronart CEO and co-founder Dinesh Vazirani said Tuesday’s record-breaking sale was “a clear indication of Sher-Gil’s artistic merit.”

“It is a rare work by the artist of this particular period to emerge in the art market… Sher-Gil painted this work [In the Ladies’ Enclosure] in the last years of his brief but exceptional life, ”he said.

In the Ladies’ Enclosure, an oil on canvas measuring 21.5 x 31.5 inches, contains a group of women and a dog assembled by a striking hibiscus bush. In the center is a bride in a vermilion salwar kameez. Others, like the woman braiding the bride’s hair and a little girl observing a hibiscus flower, are also present.

Groups of women, like this one, are found in other paintings by Sher-Gil, where they form a community but appear preoccupied with their own thoughts.

Artist Vivan Sundaram, Sher-Gil’s nephew, notes in an essay on the painting that the figures are “portraits” of people known to Sher-Gil, all living on the family estate in Saraya, Gorakhpur, for many years. long periods. “There is an informal character in their representation,” he writes.

“This painting is one of the artist’s densest compositions to be presented for sale, auction or private, and painted during a crucial phase of the artist’s ephemeral practice. Given its rarity and importance, it should have fetched a higher price and will be a major asset for its collector, in addition to its unprecedented historicity and cultural landmarks, ”said Arvind Vijaymohan, CEO of Artery India.

Similar complex compositions are seen in other paintings by Sher-Gil, such as Bride’s Toilet (1937) and Village Scene (1938).

Naturally drawn to art from an early age, Sher-Gil was encouraged to study art in Paris where she learned the academic style of painting. She returned to India in 1934, marking the beginning of an evolution in her style and a deeper connection to her Indian roots. She has traveled much of the country, soaking up its colors, sounds and people, and established a base in Saraya.

Remarkably, her color palette changed from blues and greens to earthy reds and browns, and she became more influenced by the cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora and the miniature Rajput and Pahari paintings. It is in this change that viewers can locate In Ladies’ Enclosure.

While Sher-Gil’s works on paper are regularly auctioned off, it’s not often that his canvases get the chance to go under the hammer. Artery India data shows that in the past 34 years, only 68 works by Sher-Gil have been auctioned, with sales of Rs 193.1 crore. Of these, only 16 works were paintings on canvas.

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