Jeune femme aux cheveux noirs, la tête inclinée

Jeune femme aux cheveux noirs, la tête inclinée
signed and dated 'PADAMSEE 62' (upper left)
oil on canvas
35 7/8 x 28 5/8 in. (91.3 x 72.8 cm.)
Painted in 1962
André Pacitti, Galerie Pacitti, Paris
Libert, 26 October 2006, lot 135
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Akbar Padamsee: Work in Language, Marg Publications, Mumbai, 2010, p. 146 (illustrated)



After graduating from the J.J. School of Art in 1951, Akbar Padamsee left for Paris and became enamored by French Modernism. His works from this period bear stylistic influences of the Fauvist painter, Georges Rouault along with Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Henri Matisse. Where form dominated color in his earlier years, as is evidenced by his thick use of line, it is in the 1960s that the change to color over form is most noticeable. "Dual pulls of matter and spirit are always patent in his work... He sees his paintings as a bed of tensions created by 'the linear, the formal, the tonal, the chromatic' on which the form describes itself or 'remains in a fluid potential state.'" (Ella Datta, 'Akbar Padamsee,' Art Heritage 8, New Delhi, 1988-1989, p. 40.) Upon his return to India in 1954, Padamsee attracted much controversy through his depiction of the nude (a theme that Padamsee has since frequently re-visited) when the 1954 painting, Lovers, based on Uma-Maheshvara renditions in classical painting and sculpture, was attacked on grounds of obscenity. The artist eventually won his landmark case which allowed artistic license to take precedence within the confines of a gallery space.

Padamsee's fascination and self-confessed obsession with the human form, more specifically the female nude, began in the 1950s. The early and more recent solitary female nudes are unique in as much as they do not stress eroticism as much as they evoke a tremendous sense of loneliness and detachment. During the first half of the 1960s, Akbar Padamsee experimented with various textures and techniques in his painting employing luminescent colors with sharp and violent brushstrokes. "Most of the figures evoke a sense of vulnerability and anguish, yet none of them are simple victim figures. They are not merely alone, but essentially separate from the viewer. This separateness is so persistent a feature of the paintings that one is forced to ask whether it arises out of a sense of the privacy of the self, or an uncompromising existential search in which each man or woman is irrevocably alone." (E. de Souza, Akbar Padamsee, New Delhi, Art Heritage.)

This painting belonged to the Galerie Pacitti's secretary who had it in her collection since the 1960s. The gallery was opened and owned by Andre Pacitti, located at Place Francois 1, Paris in the 8th arrondisement in 1950, specializing in Ecole de Paris artists. Pacitti had a strong relationship with Padamsee who had bought several of his works including Village aux Quatres Maisons Rouges (sold at Christies, London 10 June 2009, lot 39). Padamsee also worked with multiple galleries including Creuze, Ventadour, and St-Placide. Padamsee had arrived in Paris in 1951, and with Souza and Raza had a show at Galerie Raymond Creuze. For all three this was a crucial and very formative time. Immersed in the international avant-garde it was their chance to bring their own influences from India to the West but more importantly to determine the direction of Indian Modern Painting. However, this period was not without its challenges especially for the artists who were attempting to establish their identity in the larger art scene, Souza recollects, "Indian artists Ram Kumar, Raza, Akbar Padamsee and Laxman Pai were also in Paris at that time. All of us hoped for a cookie from the "School of Paris" and a slice of the cake of "Modern Art," but the cookie had crumbled and the cake was devoured by then. We did not think we were uninvited guests because those who partook of the "School of Paris" and baked the "Modern Art" cake came from different nationalities .... And "Modern Art itself was an amalgam of Japanese, African, Persian and other influences. So what the hell, we said, we'll tuck in as well. But when Raza, Padamsee and I had our first group show, the art dealer put Trois Hindou peintres on the invitation card. Raza, who was the only one between us who understood French, told the dealer that none of us was really Hindu. So the word was changed to Indien (Indian). But when the cards were mailed, the American Embassy telephoned the gallery and angrily asked "How the hell did these Indians get out of the Reservations?" It is a fact upon my word. Raza and Padamsee are witnesses. So much for our hopes of getting into the "Modern Art" Scene." (F.N. Souza, 'What is Modern or Contemporary or Tribal or Provincial about our Art?', The Times of India, 31 October 1982, sections I-II)