Ram Kumar – The City
In our July 2010 Fine Art Sale
Oil on canvas. Signed and dated 1958, lower right and further signed top left.
26 3/4 x 35 3/4ins.
Est £30,000 – 50,000
SOLD for £170,000
This painting is one of a series of early figurative paintings by Ram Kumar from the 1950’s of beggars or street children, which reflect his inner feelings as much as documenting the changing landscape of Indian cities. Ram Kumar clearly sympathised with the plight of new immigrants to the cities.
Executed in 1958, in this work the artist heightens the drama and the viewer’s empathy for the protagonist by having a single lone figure in front a dominant cityscape. All the feelings that the artist associated with street children are borne out by this sad, tired figure who has closed his eyes, resigning himself to an unknown fate.
By focussing on the humanitarian, Kumar has avoided being regarded as a merely political artist – although this series were none other than that. In fact, the use of paint is very modern and betrays the influence of the avant-garde schools of Paris and London, where Kumar had been in the mid 50’s.
This work was lost for several decades and re-emerged in the West Country. It was exhibited at some stage, perhaps at The 1958 Venice Biennale.
Born in Simla in 1924 Ram Kumar did his Masters in Economics from Delhi University. A student at the Sarada Ukil School of Art, Delhi, he began to participate in group exhibitions when he was spotted by Raza who becomes a close friend. Ram Kumar left for Europe by boat and studied painting under Andre Lhote and Fernand Leger in Paris between 1949-52. He has held several solo exhibitions, The International Biennales in Tokyo in 1957 and 1970, the Venice Biennale 1958 and in Sao Paulo in 1961, 1965 and 1972. He has also participated in the Festival of India shows in the then USSR and Japan in 1987 and 1988. Rarn Kumar received the Padma Shri in 1971. He also writes short stories in Hindi, four collections of his works having been published. He received the Prem Chand Puraskar from the U.P. Government for Meri Priya Kahaniyan, a collection of short stories. His works are in numerous private and public collections.
Literature: Gagan Gill (Editor) Ram Kumar, A Journey Within, Vadehra Art gallery, 1996. Page 57 black and white illustration. We are grateful to the Directors of The Grosvenor Gallery, Ryder Street, London, for their assistance with the cataloguing of this work and for hosting its London viewing.