Gopal Kumawat Painting on Paper, “Padmini Nayika.” Rare Masterpiece from the Legend.
This is truly a rare painting from one of the most sought after 20th century Indian artists, Gopal Kumawat. 12.6″ x 18″. The man: Gopal Kumawat was not the easiest person to do business with. None of the art dealers could ever acquire any of his artworks (during his lifetime) because of his condescending attitude towards them. He subsisted literally on grants and the award money he received from the government. He was also not exactly of a friendly disposition. Somewhat of a reclusive thinker and slightly arrogant, he was prone to long bouts of thinking sessions characterized by periods of intense mood swings. In his attached photograph one can feel the intensity in his eyes. He was the rarest of rarities: an original artist. One of the surviving paintings with his widow shows Shiva and Parvati envisioned as ballet dancers and also wearing the characteristic costume of such dancers. Yes he has visualized Parvati wearing a mini skirt! It gives me the goose bumps to even recall the moment when I set my eyes on this masterpiece. At that moment at least money became unimportant and only a vehicle to attain that great work of art. This maniacal urge prompted me to offer a monstrous price for it but alas she would not part with it for any price. But fortunately I am still friends with her and she has promised me that whenever I am nearby she will at least allow me to have a look at the remaining paintings, a privilege granted only to a few I can assure you. I am also attaching the relevant material on Gopal Kumawat and Kailash Raj from the German book (“Chitra”) and also their photographs. The following is a brief bio of Shri Kailash Raj: Kailash Raj is a descendant of a family of traditional Jaipur painters, and was strongly influenced by his grandfather ( Nanu Lal) and by work of his great-grandfather (Amba Shankhar). His family is one of the few who managed to keep their traditional art alive throughout the 20th century, by continuing to serve as painters for the Jaipur royal family. Today, Kailash Raj is the master artist of the family workshop, which includes his younger brother Mahesh Raj, his cousin Kailash, and two young apprentices. In addition, he serves as a mentor to young artists from other areas of Rajasthan, who travel to him for guidance and inspiration. Although schooled in the family Jaipuri tradition (earlier known as Amber school), Kailash has studied Mughal and regional styles intensively, and he and his workshop produce fine works inspired by other schools. Kailash Raj has recently begun working in a new style which combines his talent for superb detail work with his interest in portraiture, resulting in works of exceeding delicacy and interest. Many of Mr. Raj’s works are in the Canadian Museum of Civilization. HA56 is a rare classic by the late Kishangarh master Gopal Kumawat. A recipient of the prestigious National Craftsperson’s award from the President of India, Gopal Kumawat never sold a single of his artworks during his lifetime. We were lucky to acquire a few of the remaining pieces from his widow, in one of our many sourcing trips to the town of Kishangarh, Rajasthan. In fact, if you will be interested, probably we can drive up to Kishangarh and view whatever remains of his collection and meet Mrs. Kumawat as well, when you are here in New Delhi, anytime in the future. His life certainly was a very tragic one. Not exactly an easy person to live with, he separated from his devoted wife, to live alone with his mother, with whom he shared a close and special relationship. Gopal Kumawat reconciled with his wife after his mother’s death, but died a few months later, leaving his distraught wife and son behind. He was 42, and a victim of tuberculosis. It is worthwhile to note that the Late Artist, – Gopal Kumawat, as well as Shri Kailash Raj, were listed as the greatest living contemporary artists of Miniature painting in the German book ‘Chitra – The Tradition of Miniatures in Rajasthan’, by K. D. Christof and Renate Haas under the auspices of UNESCO. I am also attaching a few of the masterpieces that once graced our collection. HP41 was sold to a private collector from London, who now wants to write a book on Gopal Kumawat. Gopal Kumawat died in 1998. He never was a prolific painter. His collection or whatever remains of it is not sizeable. Many of his artworks never returned from the different art shows and continue to languish at various locations scattered over India or have been appropriated. I know of no single Kumawat which entered a private collection legitimately except through our hands, though I believe that Christoff the co-author of the German book may have one or two pieces in his collection. It remains a cherished dream to add the Shiva-Parvati ballet painting to our collection someday. This painting: The artist Gopal Kumawat known for his wondrous synthesis of ancient art norms and traditions and modern taste and technique has blended with the ancient model of padmini nayika the medieval Bani Thani womanhood, the Kishangarh art style and the contemporary bold symbolism. Artist’s adherence to tradition is strong and manifest. He has preferred the damsel of his creation to wear on the fingers of her feet the rings, on her feet the mahawara and on her palms the hina, all the auspicious symbols of a faithful and devoted consort which a padmini nayika was required to be. The heat of passion in her is strong and is seen bursting from her eyes but her bed-chamber is her geographical limit and a cool decent composure her demeanour, though for depicting the state of her mind and the urge within the artist has taken recourse to a symbolic representation. In her replica painted in the frame on the terrace above she is seen coiling with the parching heat of passion against a massive male-like bolster and in the process she has partially unclad herself. In the replica the colour of her saree is more yellowish for yellow represents the god of love Kamadeva and Vasanta, the month when the earth emits out of it heaps of flowers inciting sexual urge in all born ones. Compartmentalisation of canvas for serialising a theme was quite common in Indian medieval art but when used for depicting an attitude of mind involving particularly a question of female grace and social norms, it becomes by and large a modern technique most widely used in Indian cinema as well. The young lady is endowed with celestial beauty and highly proportionate figure. Cast against an opaque background she has a tall figure with well defined breasts, thin slender waist, well shaped hips, tall arms with fine long fingers and comely palms, raised neck, deep dreamy eyes, curly hair and sharp features. The use of light colours in still lighter tints remarkably suits the serenity of the theme and sublimates an otherwise worldly phenomenon. The presence of lotuses, buds and full blooming flowers and leaves around, is noticeable. It is not only the base ponds which the lotuses populate but they also create the prime decorative element and the significant architectural forms from ground to terrace levels. The lady is seen fanning herself with a lotus leaf and cooling her parching head with another rendering it difficult to pronounce whether the lotuses make her padmini or being padmini she has transformed everything around from her breasts, eye-lids to architecture and entire atmosphere into lotuses. This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
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