Lot 45
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a) An autographed portrait of Amrita Sher-Gil, black and white photograph, signed "Amrita Sher-Gil" (lower right), 5.5. x 3.5 in (14 x 8.9 cm)

b) A set of seven black and white photos of works by Amrita Sher-Gil, annotated by the artist (Torso, 1932; Young Man with Apples, 1932; The Woman in Blue, 1935; The Man in White, 1935; The Little Untouchable, 1936; Self-Portrait, c. 1930. Refer to Vivan Sundaram ed., Amrita Sher-Gil: a self- portrait in letters and writings, Volume II, New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2010, pp. 796-811) Sent by Sher-Gil to R C Tandan for the purposes of reproduction in the exhibition catalogue The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil, 1937

c) A set of seven proofs, stamped "ALLAHABAD BLOCK WORKS", for The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil, 1937 (Portrait of Amrita Sher-Gil; Young Girls, 1932; The Girl in Black, 1933; The Man in White, 1935; The Little Untouchable, 1936; Beggars, 1935; Self- Portrait, c. 1930)

d) A set of three press clippings sent by the artist to R C Tandan (Amrita Sher-Gil, "Modern Indian Art: Imitating the Forms of the Past", The Hindu, 1 November 1936; "Bombay Art Society's Exhibition", The Times of India, 16 January 1937; "Art Exhibition in Bombay", publication and date unknown)

e) Letter written by Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit to R C Tandan, dated "Anand Bhavan, 31.1.37" regarding Amrita Sher-Gil's stay in Allahabad for the upcoming exhibition

f) Draft and printed version of Prof. Amarnath Jha's speech at the opening ceremony of Amrita Sher-Gil's exhibition in Allahabad

g) Draft of R C Tandan's "Amrita Sher-Gil and her Art" published in The Leader, 3 February 1937

h) A set of eight press clippings addressing the Allahabad exhibition, and other Amrita Sher-Gil exhibitions

i) A set of eight letter drafts and one telegram from R C Tandan addressed to Amrita Sher-Gil, 1937

j) Envelope handwritten and addressed to R C Tandan by the artist, dated and stamped "28 FEB. 37"

k) A set of two letters written to R C Tandan by Karl Khandalavala, regarding Sher-Gil's request to have Khandalavala write the "Introduction" to her next catalogue.

l) Draft of the Karl Khandalavala's "Introduction" text

m) Receipt of delivery by the Indian Railways for documents sent to R C Tandan by Amrita Sher-Gil

n) Letter to R C Tandan from Sarada Ukil informing him that he has sent The Elephants Bathing and Composition to Tandan at the artist's request (on the All-India Fine Arts (& Crafts) Society letterhead)

o) A set of two letters to R C Tandan from the Secretariat of the Bombay Art Society informing him of the shipping of the blocks for "Group of Young Girls", dated "13-4-38"; follow-up letter requesting their return, dated "5th July 1938"

p) Invoice from The Allahabad Block Works, 1938

q) Notes made by R C Tandan in preparation for Sher-Gil's forthcoming catalogue with colour plates

r) The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil, with an Introduction by Karl Khandalavala, Series of the Roerich Centre of Art and Culture, Allahabad: The Allahabad Block Works, Ltd, 1939 (earlier unpublished proof of the posthumous catalogue)

s) A set of seven colour proofs for The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil, with an Introduction by Karl Khandalavala (The Story-Teller, 1937; Torso, 1932; Ganesh Puja, 1938; Women in Red, 1938; The Bride's Toilet, 1937; Group of Young Girls, 1935, Bathing Elephants, 1938)

t) A black and white photo of a work by Amrita Sher-Gil ( The Bride's Toilet, 1937)

u) Catalogue of Paintings, Allahabad University Fine Arts Society Exhibition, 1940, exhibiting a work by Amrita Sher-Gil ( Mother India, 1935), "By courtesy of Mr. R. C. Tandan"

v) "Amrita Sher-Gil", an essay by R C Tandan (Hindi, date and publication unknown)

The Tandan Collection

In 1934, Amrita Sher-Gil, aged 21, had finished her art education at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, under the tutelage of Lucien Simon. For this young promising artist, the world was at her feet, and yet she felt drawn back to her erstwhile homeland. "... Amrita felt that Paris had equipped her, and had given her eyes to see as an artist should see but her real work lay in India." (The Usha, p. vii)

While she resided in Shimla for the next four years and painted, Sher-Gil also took the time to travel around the country and participate in exhibitions. 1936 was an important year for this young female artist-she toured Bombay, Hyderabad, and Trivandrum as part of a joint exhibition with the artist Barada Ukil. Earlier that year in September, Ukil had organised an exhibition of modern Indian artists at the Cecil Hotel in Shimla, and eleven of Sher-Gil's paintings were part of that show. In November, their joint exhibition at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay showcased the portraits, still-lifes, and nudes that she had painted in Paris, as well as those done in India. Here she sold one of her early seminal works, Composition, for Rs 1000, to an "Indian gentleman" (Sundaram, ed., Amrita Sher-Gil, Vol. I, p. 261), who turned out to be Anand Prabha Shankar Pattani, Dewan of Bhavnagar.

Sher-Gil formed relationships with important people during this time, such as Sarojini Naidu, the Nehrus, and most notably, Karl Khandalavala. Her correspondence with Khandalavala would last her lifetime, marked by exchanges of intellectual and artistic mentorship.

Around this time, she received a letter from Ram Chandra Tandan (father of Col. R K Tandan), who was the Secretary of the Hindustani Academy in Allahabad. Tandan was an admirer of Sher-Gil's works and requested she send him "half a dozen photographic prints" of her important paintings, along with a signed photograph, that would be suitable for reproduction. He also brought up the possibility of an exhibition of her works in Allahabad.

Following up on his offer, R C Tandan organised a solo exhibition of Sher-Gil's works which opened on 2 February 1937 at the Roerich Centre of Art and Culture in Allahabad. The opening ceremony took place at the University of Allahabad, with a speech delivered by Prof. Amarnath Jha, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and a noted Sanskrit scholar. This exhibition proved to be a "great moral victory" (Sundaram, ed., Amrita Sher-Gil, Vol. I, p. 331) for Sher-Gil. In one of her letters to friend Denise Proutaux, she writes:

"I was given a terrific reception! The Dean of the Fine Arts Faculty made a long and impressive speech about my art at the opening and I had to sit next to him on a platform facing an audience of about 700 people. ... The organisation that had put up the exhibition had published a small booklet on my work with reproductions (I shall send you a copy soon) of my paintings and it was sold by the hundreds. But what is less funny is that I had to autograph almost half of them! That was really too much. I would have never thought I would be one day surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd ready to risk being crushed in order to see me and get my autograph. (I am not yet used to taking myself seriously!)" (Sundaram, ed., Amrita Sher-Gil, Vol. I, p. 343)

In keeping with his role as a promoter of young, upcoming artists, R C Tandan himself wrote the introduction to the catalogue, titled "Amrita Sher-Gil and her Art", praising her as "one of the most talented and outstanding of our painters of the younger generation". (R C Tandan, The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil,unpaginated)

In the following years, there were talks of a second catalogue with colour reproductions. Sher-Gil had insisted the foreword be written by Karl Khandalavala, who had established himself as eminent art critic and whose opinions were personally quite important to her. However, the production of this catalogue was considerably delayed, and Sher-Gil never saw it come to fruition in her lifetime. After her death in 1941, it was published posthumously at an exhibition of her paintings at the Punjab Literary League Hall in Lahore.

Writing about Sher-Gil in later years, Karl Khandalavala seems to run out of superlatives: "Within living memory no artist in this country has aroused so much controversy or engendered so much hatred and jealousy in her fellow artists. Nor has any artist suffered so much ridicule from an ignorant public. Her work was a living challenge to decadence and bad taste. It was a living challenge to all that was untruthful in art. Nothing but the greatest was good enough. But the sheer power of her finest canvases so transcended anything that had hitherto been achieved in Modern Indian painting, even by the most notable pioneers of Bengal Renaissance, that when she died her talent became legend. Her aggravating outspokenness and her unpalatable belief that art was either good or not good, came to be forgotten, and the honest artist and the honest critic realized within himself 'that God had dwelt in her right hand.'" (Khandalavala, Amrita Sher-Gil, p. xi-xii)

The following lot consists of archival material from 1936-1939 centred around the Allahabad exhibition of 1937 organised by R C Tandan, which includes an autographed photo by Amrita Sher- Gil and seven annotated black and white photos of her works. A rare letter by Vijaya Laxmi Pandit speaks of hosting guests for the exhibition.

The latter half of the lot consists of letters and other correspondence concerning the preparation of a second catalogue with colour plates, which was published after the artist's death. It includes drafts of an introduction written by Karl Khandalavala for the intended catalogue, and notes made by R C Tandan.

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  Lot 45 of 70  

14 DECEMBER 2015

Rs 10,00,000 - 15,00,000

Winning Bid
Rs 12,00,000
(Inclusive of Buyer's Premium)


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