Saturday, September 03, 2011

Jehangir Sabavala (1922 - 2011) R.I.P.

One of the prominent figures from Indian art scene Jehangir Sabavala passed away on 2nd September 2011 at the age of 89. He was extremely active as an artist till recent and was known to work on his paintings for long hours. He has produced numerous works which can be classified into various art styles, and which had emerged from his subtly evolving artistic phases. But to speak broadly, he was an academic easel painter who seemed to enjoy the warm relationship with canvas and colors throughout his long career. His style had a strong cubist influence perhaps inherited from his decade long academic stay in Europe in late 40s and early 50s.

For the sake of conveying a better idea of his work, I would say that his paintings give a feel similar to that of Robert Delaunay or Lyonel Feininger.

Born in a highly esteemed Parsi (Zoroastrian) family from Mumbai, after an initial art education in India, Sabavala spent his long academic tenure in prestigious art institutions of Europe such as the Heatherley School, the Academic Andre Lhote, the Academic Julianfrom and the Academic de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris. He was often described as ‘a gentleman’ of Indian art scene, and his grace and elegance also reflected in his painterly brush work and marvelously subtle tones. Sabavala participated in numerous exhibitions, solo shows and represented India in various international shows like Venice Biennale. His works have been collected by museums worldwide and are often seen in important group shows that cover the last 50 years of art in India. Sabavala was awarded the prestigious civilian award ‘Padma Shree’ by the Government of India in 1977.

Sabavala had witnessed and had also been a part of the critical art timeline of India. Before India gained its independence in 1947 from the British colonial rule, modern art education had been introduced in India, like many other educational streams, as a part of the educational policy (designed for ‘natives’ by subject experts). It had been established in rush and never got a chance to organically evolve in that short period. But post independence, things changed rapidly. Two types of artists were seen active in those years, the ones who remained academic and explored within the boundaries of conventional easel work, or the artists who tried to adapt bohemian lifestyle and worked similarly. Clashes and criticisms were inevitable between these two loose categories of painters but all these conflicts ultimately helped the art in free India to move forward and evolve. Jehangir Sabavala’s contribution to the Indian art will remain indisputably important in this respect.


Anish Gogate said...

A very nice writeup of a very sad event. The blog leaves the reader inquisitive about the work of Mr. Sabavala. It definately made me look for Mr. Jehangir Sabavala on wikipedia and search him on google to get more information.

Thanks for the informative write up Debu. Looking forward for your next blog.

Debu Barve said...

Anish Thanks! In case you are visiting Mumbai, you might get to see some of his canvases at NGMA.(National Gallery of Modern Art)

Onkar Shirgaonkar said...

Great arts by Mr.Sabavala. very nice sir. Thanks for showing...!!

Andrew Graeme Gould said...

What a legacy to the art world, Debu. I can see that from these stylish works. And a fine tribute from you, too.

Debu Barve said...

Dear Onkar, Andrew,
Thank you for comments.

Mihir Mone said...

Nice read Debu... liked it... great indian artist... good amount of time he spent in Europe during the time of pre n post Indian independence.. few compositions reminded of Picasso..

Debu Barve said...

Mihir Thanks.

Yes, he had a great influence of Cubism on his work at one time.

Anonymous said...

Bonsoir Debu, respects.

Lara Nicholls said...

Lovely article. Can you let us know the dates of the works that you illustrate on this blog please? We have two very important works by the artist coming up for auction on 2 May 2012 in Sydney. Look at our website - I am holding one of the works on my facebook home page. Thanks, Lara

Debu Barve said...


Appreciate your remark. Unfortunately, I cannot help you with the exact dates of the works I've posted with my article. In case you are looking for someone who might help you in these matters, do contact NGMA, Mumbai. as they have perhaps the largest single collection of works by Sabavala. Hope this helps.

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