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A Far Afternoon A Painted Saga by Krishen Khanna Not Just Modern Art, but Indian
A painter of a resurgent India
At the “young” age of 90, Krishen Khanna is one of the stalwarts of Modern Indian Art. A Far Afternoon 2015 is one of his attempts at creating a work on large scale. At 90 years of age he painted – a 22 foot long masterpiece
A Far Afternoon, has been painted over a period of nearly 9 months and is 22 feet long. The painting is constructed in five panels that flow into each other. The theme of the painting is of a wedding party in procession in a mid-summer wedding. The Indian Yellow spreads like a shimmering blanket.
The Bandwallahs perform in the Bridegroom’s procession.
The “cutting” chai wallah and the Thanda thanda ( cold) juice wallah.
The fruit sellers and the dhabha owner
A Far Afternoon Exhibited at Piramal Art Foundation, Mumbai Smriti- a book on art history by Ashvin Rajgopalan and Vaishnavi Ramanthan of the paintings in the Piramal Art Foundation collection.
Artists Raza and Anjolie Ela Menon view the painting- Far Afternoon at the Delhi Art Fair 2015
Krishen Khanna (1925 - ) is an Indian artist born in Faislabad, Pakistan. in pre partition India in 1925, Krishen Khanna moved to Shimla during the partition. He attended Imperial Service College in England. He is recipient of the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1962, the Padma Shri in 1990, and the Padma Bhushan in 2011. Krishen was inducted into the Progressive Artists` Group by M.F. Husain, who was to remain his lifelong friend. Krishen Khanna remembers that his painting had been displayed in the centre of the PAG exhibition. About the Artist
The Progressive Artists' Group was formed by six founder members, F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, M. F. Husain, K. H. Ara, H. A. Gade, and S. K. Bakre. Others associated with the group included Manishi Dey, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar and Tyeb Mehta. The Progressive Group wished to break with the revivalist nationalism established by the Bengal school of art and to encourage an Indian avant-garde. The Group was formed just months after the 14 August, 1947 and the "Partition of India“ because Francis Newton Souza, S.H. Raza, M. F. Husain and co. wanted to imagine modern art for a free India. It disbanded in 1956 but this group shaped Indian fine art for decades to come. Modern Art for a Free India
Science and the Arts- a melange of progressive ideas for a young country. Scientist Homi Bhabha bought the first Krishen Khanna’s painting for the TIFR collection
In Krishen Khann’s painting the “themes of ordinary life dominate- simple joy and pleasures of life, colours, vibrant, rich, exciting, liberating, dancing, smiling, singing, speaking colours. ” Vibrant, smiling, singing colours.
In the late 1940s, the Progressives were encouraged and received support from an assortment of European Jewish emigres who had fled Europe with the rise of the Nazis to settle in Bombay. Walter Langhammer, an art teacher as well as Rudolf von Leyden, who was an art critic for The Times of India, were patrons. They helped not only financially, but also by opening up a world of European paintings to these young artists. Krishen Khanna with Rudy Von Leyden , a respected art critic The creation of the Progressive Artists Group is entwined with that of independent India. A culturally and religiously diverse cast of characters, the artists came together to form an informal group in the highly charged political climate of cosmopolitan 1940s Bombay, as the city was then called. Freedom to be modern. Krishen Khanna with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
The founders of the Progressive Artists Group often cite "the partition" as an impetus for their style of modern art. Their intention was to "paint with absolute freedom for content and technique, almost anarchic, save that we are governed by one or two sound elemental and eternal laws, of aesthetic order, plastic co-ordination and colour composition.” they wrote. In 1950, Krishen Khanna joined the Group. Photo-Raza, Bal Chabbda, Tyeb, Krishen , Akbar
Krishen wrote “I’ve painted the people of this country. But I’m dumbfounded at the popularity of the bandwallahs,”-something he attributes to the grand Indian wedding fantasy which has kept at least this one British institution complete with red coats, brocade trimmings, hats, trumpets, “the whole jolly lot” — intact.
In this work here, Khanna presents a bandwallah whose tightly closed eyes may be both a symbol of his absorption in the music or the reflection of his mental fatigue. The bandwallah, is indispensable for every marriage celebration. Piramal Art Foundation collection. The Bandwallah
In his painting Musicians, Khanna’s preoccupation is to recreate the rhythm of music through the use of white as a connecting note throughout the work. One panel represents sarod maestro Amjad Khan . The other panel depicts the South Indian flautist T.R.Mahalingam. Piramal Art Foundation collection. North and South- connected with white
“I had no idea that this painting would grow to this size. I began with the groom on a white mare, accompanied with an even more inexperienced youngster seated behind him fearfully clutching the groom . The painting took off from this image and became pivotal in the expansion of this work. The choice of colours and the tone of each expanding form was determined by what had already been set down. It seemed to me that the expanding shapes and colours were attaining to a life of their own. The painting, as it developed, was growing out of its own inevitability plying my energy for recording the entire movement. It was as if I had abandoned myself to forces beyond me. I would find myself moving forward and then I would find that what I had left behind as done would start asking questions. My attention would shift to the earlier panels where modifications were made… This was becoming like a mural which by its nature boarders on infinity. The change is scale involved a wholly different approach to the way this work was painted.” -KRISHEN KHANNA A Far Afternoon