GANESH PYNE (1937-2013)
GANESH PYNE (1937-2013)

The Moon

GANESH PYNE (1937-2013)
The Moon
signed and dated in Bengali (lower right)
tempera on canvas
21 1/8 x 22 1/8 in. (53.7 x 56.2 cm.)
Painted in 2006
Sotheby's New York, 17 July 2007, lot 64
Acquired from the above


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department




"What gives Pyne's work distinctiveness is the artist's involvement with his art. His life, his world, indeed his whole being is focused on this act of creation. He is most at home with his own inner world of darkness and light from which emerges the strange forms. The canvases are a reflection of this all-absorbing interior life" (E. Datta, Ganesh Pyne: His Life and Times, Kolkata, 1998, p. 17).

As a child, Ganesh Pyne lived in an old mansion in Calcutta with his extended family. His clearest memories of the time he spent there include the stories that his grandmother regularly told the children on the verandah, the captivating Krishna temple across the street, and a neighbor who hosted jatra or folk theater performances in their home. Memories of these experiences ignited Pyne’s imagination, inspiring him to paint masterful pieces imbued with mysticism and fantasy. Later, profound experiences of loss and death during the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, influenced Pyne to create visual narratives populated with skeletal forms, masks, puppets, animals and floating bodies.

“The shadowy niches of his childhood home, the strange, dark fantasy of his grandmother’s stories, the theatricality of jatra, and his traumatic encounter with death and violence came to besiege his memory, which would imbue the mundane with a mystique and gift him a rich and complex interior landscape to contemplate. Introverted, reclusive, reflective, the artist remained achingly tuned to the tremulous childhood core that shaped his sensibility and proved intrinsic to his art” (R. Datta, ‘Artist of Disquiet and Twilight Mysteries’, The Telegraph, 19 March 2013).

While Pyne’s technique and style were initially influenced by the works of Abanindranath Tagore and the Bengal School, they soon evolved from the gentle, narrative watercolors of the 1950s towards a more modernist vocabulary. In the artist’s later paintings such as the present lot, there is no “attempt to emulate or reproduce the dynamism of narrated action. There is, by contrast, a pure modernist emphasis upon the nature itself of still media, an absorption in the introspective, reflective property of the moment of viewing, a property transferred to the figures themselves, each caught up in a private act of meditation” (S. Chaudhuri, ‘Epic of Unhappiness’, The Telegraph, 18 December 2010).

Intertwining melancholia and beauty, Pyne portrays an elegantly dressed lady in close profile looking out over a waterbody at night in The Moon. The faint light from a crescent moon reveals the shadowy form of a sail-less boat in the water. Alluding perhaps to the journey of souls between the earthly realm and the underworld across mythical rivers like the Styx, the artist gives expression to experiences of love and loss, and the meditations on life and death they elicited in him.

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