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Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art / Krishna Hawlaji Ara (Indian, 1914-1985) Youth

Lot 16
Krishna Hawlaji Ara
(Indian, 1914-1985)
24 May 2022, 13:00 BST
London, New Bond Street

Sold for £12,750 inc. premium

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Krishna Hawlaji Ara (Indian, 1914-1985)

signed 'Ara' lower right
oil on canvas
59 x 44cm (23 1/4 x 17 5/16in).


Rudi von Leyden and thence by descent;
Sotheby's, Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art - Including Indian Miniature Paintings, London, 8th June 2012, lot 32;
Acquired by the vendor from the above.

International Contemporary Art Exhibition, New Delhi

There is a label on the back, titled International Contemporary Art Exhibition, New Delhi(India) with the title of the picture: Youth, competition No: 1, medium: oil colour, Price: Rs. 450/Four Hundred and..., Name and address of the artist: K.H. Ara... The price and address is not decipherable.

Ara was a self-taught artist who was born in Bolarum, Secunderabad into poverty as the son of a chauffeur, and ran away from home aged 7 to Mumbai following his mother's demise and his father's remarriage. He supported himself in Mumbai by cleaning cars and then working as a houseboy. He was imprisoned for five months following his participation in the Salt Satyagraha during the Civil Disobedience Movement. Despite his economic plight and the challenges he faced, he was devoted to the pursuit of art, and carried on with his practice.

It was after the success of his first solo show, organised by Kekoo Gandhy at the Chetana Restaurant in Bombay in 1942, that Ara founded the Progressive Artist's Group, where he had opportunity to interact with several critics of the time. The present lot traces it origins to one of those critics, Rudi von Leyden from the Times of India. Von Leyden was a staunch supporter of Ara, and provided him with a stipend in order to hone his craft.

Although Ara started painting landscapes and still life paintings, he later moved to painting female nudes and portraits, as evidenced in the present lot. His medium of choice to paint also changed, from gouaches and watercolours to oil paints. He now favoured precision in his paintings over the jagged and brash strokes used to execute his earlier works. His art appears to be spontaneous and intuitive, and although there is no apparent nudity in the present lot, the lower half of this painting was obscured and unvarnished when it was exhibited at the International Contemporary Art exhibition in New Delhi, owing to the artistic practise at the time of depicting brazen nudity.

He exhibited widely during the early part of his career, and one notable exhibition includes the inaugural show of the Pundole Art Gallery in 1963. He was the recipient of the annual prizes of the Bombay Art Society, and was the founder and secretary of the Artists' Aid Centre and trutee of the Jehangir Art Gallery in Bombay. He was also a fellow and general council member of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.

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