Untitled (Nude)

Untitled (Nude)
signed and dated 'PADAMSEE '67' (upper right)
oil on canvas
36¼ x 25½ in. (92.1 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted in 1967
Lunn Gallery, Washington
Private Collection, Paris
Private Collection, New York
Christie's New York, 18 March 2014, lot 210
Acquired from the above by the present owner


After graduating from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay, Akbar Padamsee left for Paris in 1951 to immerse himself in the international avant-garde along with other artists like F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza and Ram Kumar. Apart from classical Indian painting and sculpture, his works from this period bear stylistic influences of Henri Matisse, along with Georges Rouault, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, whose work he encountered in person for the first time in Paris.

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. During this time, Padamsee experimented with various textures and techniques in his painting juxtaposing dark and luminescent colors and using sharp and violent strokes of the palette knife, almost as if he were sculpting his figures, giving them presence beyond the two-dimensional surface of the canvas. "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.'" (E. Datta, 'Akbar Padamsee', Art Heritage 8, New Delhi, 1988-89, p. 40)

Padamsee's fascination and self-confessed obsession with the human form, more specifically the female nude, began in the 1950s. The early solitary female nudes, like this pensive example from 1967, are unique and quite rare, evoking a tremendous sense of loneliness and detachment. As the poet Eunice de Souza described them, "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." ('Akbar Padamsee', Art Heritage, New Delhi, 1980, unpaginated)

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