TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)
TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)

Thrown Bull

TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)
Thrown Bull
signed and dated 'Tyeb 61' (lower right); further signed and dated 'Tyeb / 61' (on the reverse) and inscribed and titled 'November 1962 / TYEB MEHTA / Thrown Bull / Presented to Nuffield College' on Bear Lane Gallery label (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
28 ½ x 36 ¼ in. (72.3 x 92 cm.)
Painted in 1961
Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford
Acquired from the above by P. W. S Andrews and E. Brunner
Gifted by the above to Nuffield College, University of Oxford
Tyeb Mehta; Catalogue of Paintings and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Oxford, 1962, unpaginated (listed)
India: Myth and Reality. Aspects of Modern Indian Art, exhibition catalogue, Oxford, 1982, unpaginated (listed)
R. Hoskote, Tyeb Mehta: Ideas Images Exchanges, New Delhi, 2005, p. 62 (illustrated)
Oxford, Bear Lane Gallery, Tyeb Mehta; Catalogue of Paintings and Drawings, 31 October – 26 November, 1962
Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, India: Myth and Reality. Aspects of Modern Indian Art, 27 June – 8 August, 1982


Alicia Churchward
Alicia Churchward




“I was looking for an image to express this anguish and years later, I found it in the British Museum. I was fascinated by the image of the trussed bull in the Egyptian bas relief and created my first major painting.” - Tyeb Mehta

Tyeb Mehta's Thrown Bull is one of his earliest uses of the image of the iconic trussed bull, a motif that would remain at the core of the artist’s practice throughout his oeuvre. This charged trope would also earn him the Gold Medal at the inaugural Indian Triennale in New Delhi in 1968. The bull is a seminal image for Mehta, entwined with his artistic practice. “As the discovery of the image, the trussed bull was important for me on several levels. As a statement of great energy…blocked or tied up. The way they tie the animal’s legs and fling it on the floor or the slaughterhouse before butchering it…you feel something very vital has been lost. The trussed bull also seemed representative of the national condition…the mass of humanity unable to channel or direct its tremendous energies.” (Artist statement, N. Ty-Tomkins Seth, Tyeb Mehta: Ideas Images Exchanges, 2005, p. 341)

The trussed bulls of the Bombay slaughterhouses futilely struggle, powerless in the face of the inevitable, and exemplify for Mehta the conditions of indignity and constriction in Indian everyday life. The bull in this painting is a monument to this sentiment, struggling and contorted. A few years after painting this work, Mehta made the award-winning film, Koodal (1970), filled with powerful images of a slaughtered bull. The artist stated, “I moved to the slaughterhouse at Bandra near Masjid. Actually I shot three minutes of my film there. Those three minutes are the most poignant sequence in my film, it’s an image which is very near to my mental make-up. The bull is a powerful animal and when its legs are tied down and it’s thrown down it’s an assault on life itself.” (Artist statement, Y. Dalmia, ‘Metamorphosis: From Mammal to Man’, Tyeb Mehta: Triumph of Vision, New Delhi, 2011, p. 13)

Painted in 1961 Thrown Bull is also one of the earliest examples of Mehta’s gestural expressive style which he developed in the United Kingdom. Having arrived in London in 1959 this painting is indelibly tied to the artist’s experiences in England where he encountered European Expressionism, a breakthrough moment for him that saw his style undergo a radical change. The artist recalls, “In the early work, expression was all-important […] Expressionism appeals to the viewer directly…Munch, Kokoschka, Emil Nolde weren’t painters in the tradition of painting, and they were ‘gut’ painters.” I was painting from the gut." (Artist statement, N. Ty-Tomkins Seth, New Delhi, 2005, p. 341) During this period, Mehta’s works were dominated by muted colours and thick textured impasto, the most sculptural of his entire oeuvre. In these works, “[…] the thickly stroked paint would layer the surface with a heavy patina of disquiet. The rendering of colours, of equal tonality and applied in verisimilitude, provided a cohesion, which would yet seem like a fierce interlocking. A compressed battle would ensue also between the figure and the space surrounding it, interpenetrative as two entities, which would coalesce to form an independent relationship, creating a new interpretative reality.” (Y. Dalmia, New Delhi, 2011, p. 5)

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