Sunday, August 4, 2013

A modernist, a cubist, a master

Jehangir Sabavala was a classicist and primarily a formalist. The landscape always gained precedence over all else in his painterly realm. Capturing their majestic changeability, it also resembled his own liberation of spirit through the very process of his work. In essence, his depiction of nature was akin to a display of his inner emotions, and self-reflection coupled with pure forms build his mesmerizing artistic vision.

One India’s most admired and respected artists, Jehangir Sabavala, had an illustrious career that spanned well over six decades during which he witnessed many milestones and won critical acclaim, even while striking a chord with art-loving masses. The modern Indian painter even set a new personal record with his serene landscape, entitled ‘The Casuarina Line I’, which fetched a price of Rs 1.7 crores. It easily exceeded the pre-sale estimate of Rs. 5 million, marking another glorious moment in his enriching artistic journey.

His foray in art started with studies at Sir J. J. School of Arts, Mumbai. Later, he joined the Heatherly School of Art, London (1945-47), the Academie Julian and the Academic de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris.
The modernist style with a classical influence marked his geometric wedges that merge to create vast, tranquil scenes. The ‘receding planes’ imparted his canvas - done in oils with deft brushstrokes - with an illusory sense of depth, displaying his command over the elements of light, color, and texture Consistently representational, they invariably weighed a Renaissance master’s meditative equilibrium. What created poise in them is the intriguing archaeology of forms as well as structural gravity!

The celebrated painter’s eclectic art was a fine blend of cubist and impressionist styles. His visual language was often compared to that of known Cubist masters. Although there existed an underlying similarity and a common thread, at the obvious level, his serene images stood for fractured shards of reality. It might be too ephemeral to term him merely a Cubist.

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