BHUPEN KHAKHAR (1934-2003)
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BHUPEN KHAKHAR (1934-2003)

Untitled (Portrait of Pandoo)

BHUPEN KHAKHAR (1934-2003)
Untitled (Portrait of Pandoo)
signed and dated in Gujarati (centre right)
oil on canvas
41¾ x 33 in. (106 x 83.8 cm.)
Painted in 1977
Formerly in the Collection of the Artist, Baroda
Private collector, New Delhi
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Lots have been imported into India and in order to remove the lots from a Free Trade Warehousing Zone and release into Indian free circulation, customs duty at 10.3% will be added to the hammer value and the applicable VAT/CST will be charged on the duty inclusive value of the hammer.


Following his training as a chartered accountant in Bombay, Bhupen Khakhar moved to Baroda in 1962 to pursue a career in art. At the time Baroda was becoming an important centre for a new generation of Indian artists including, G.M. Sheikh, Nalini Malani and Sudhir Patwardhan, as well as the influential critic Geeta Kapur. "The centre of Khakhar's existence remained always the studio-house in Baroda, where he would struggle for months on end with one picture at a time. Often he would paint surrounded by intimate friends: a poet, a bootlegger, a businesswoman, all sitting side by side, served tea and snacks by his ever-faithful servant Pandoo." (T. Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar Obituary, The Independent, 21 September 2003)

The present painting is an unexpectedly intimate image of Bhupen Khakhar's servant Pandu or Pandoo at his Baroda home. As a gay man, Khakhar remained unmarried and treated his devoted servant Pandoo and his family as his own. This, in a sense, is a more private image than so many of his intimate scenes of homosexual love. In this portrait, we see the other side of the painter's brush, a glimpse into the 'backstage' of Khakhar's crucible of creativity. "At home, he is looked after by a servant, Pandu, who used to look after Bhupen's mother earlier and has been in Baroda with Bhupen ever since she passed away. Pandu is married and has several children, who are quite a dominating presence in the small house." (D. Ganguly, 'Gay and Hearty', Indian Express Sunday Magazine, 1992)

Critic Adil Jussawalla in his essay on Khakhar cites this image in particular as a transformative one, an image of strength and heroism. "It is called Man Sitting on Bed (Portrait of Pandoo) and shows an impressive figure sitting on a bed, his legs dangling over the edge, the feet not touching the floor, his left arm, stretched out but folded at the elbow, casually resting on two rolled up razais, his right arm at rest by his side. The face is uncommonly powerful, suggesting both serenity and strength." (A. Jussawalla, 'Candour and Secrecy, The Figures of Bhupen Khakhar', Bhupen Khakhar: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Mumbai, 2003, p. 19)

While this kind of candid portrayal is common to so many of Khakhar's scenes of taboo, subjugation and marginalisation, Portrait of Pandoo in many ways encapsulates the very core of his artistic practice and personality. As the artist's biographer, Timothy Hyman put it, Bhupen Khakhar was "A man of exceptional courage and generosity, of radiant charm and mischievous [...] His art is founded on two interwoven themes: his concern for "ordinary" people and objects; and his quest for a visual language by which the experience of the partly westernised middle-class Indian, the "Insignificant Man", might find expression." (T. Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar Obituary, The Independent, 21 September 2003)

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