This powerfully constructed work by landscape master Jehangir Sabavala plays with contrasts of colour and light to impose its presence.
Jehangir Sabavala (1922-2011), The Upthrust, 1974, oil on canvas, signed and dated, 127 x 97 cm.
This painting is by Jehangir Sabavala, whose work is rare in France despite his being one of India’s most famous artists. He graduated from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai in 1944 before heading to Europe, first London, then Paris, where he took courses with André Lhote and studied at the académie Julian and the Grande Chaumière. For over 60 years since his first solo show in India in 1951, Sabavala has allowed his inspiration, palette and technique to mature while remaining faithful to the landscapes in oil with which his name is associated. This work, The Upthrust, perfectly depicts the impression of rising. The rocky mass painted in dark brown monochromes irresistibly draws the viewer’s gaze as an immutable totem would do. The sails of the ship in the foreground respond to it by playing the role of a counterpoint. The skiff looks almost weightless on the white water. Strong vertical lines contrast with the tripartite horizontal bands of the sea, the distant coast and the sky. All of these effects help to create a skilfully constructed perspective. Sabavala says his paintings are not spontaneous. On the contrary, he asserts the importance of drawing and believes it is necessary to learn painting’s academic foundations in order to break free of them. He draws many preliminary sketches to place the parts of his composition before painting. Based on studies expressing his thought as faithfully as possible, he makes a final sketch before transposing it to the canvas. This one attracted all the more notice in that a work by the artist has not come up for auction in France since 2009.