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Modern & Contemporary Indian Art II Modern & Contemporary Indian Art II K. VENKATAPPA (1887 - 1965)
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Lot 123, Bowrings - European & Modern and Contemporary Indian Paintings - November 2002, New Delhi
K. Venkatappa came from a family of court painters of Mysore who specialized in the use of gold leaf. He familiarized himself with European modes of painting before he was sent, by the then Maharaja of Mysore, to Calcutta where he became one of Abanindranath Tagore's students. Inspired by his teacher's innovative approach to painting he adopted the wash technique and dreamlike compositional elements but seemed to bestow the figures with greater vigour and stronger presences. He excelled in his depiction of stories from the Ramayana, in rendering landscapes and as a musician, in playing the instrument Veena.
Venkatappa, along with Nandalal Bose and Asit Kumar Haldar worked on making copies of the Ajanta murals in a project sponsored by Lady Herringham. His love for landscape painting took him to Darjeeling, where he painted Himalayan views with Gagendranath Tagore, and later to Ooty and Kodaikanal, where he produced some of his masterly landscapes. Interestingly, he made his observations and then worked in his studio, transferring into the sceneries emotional and expressive elements that grew out of his responses to light, colour and atmosphere. This feeling for light and colour extended into his narrative compositions as seen in the wash painting presented here where the sage Narad Muni, descends from the clouds in a blue sky, his eyes closed in devotion and his hands clasping and playing his two instruments.
Being skilled in plaster sculpting and relief work, in the 1930's he was commissioned by the Maharaja of Mysore Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV to decorate a portion of the Ambavilas Hall at the Royal Palace. Venkatappa made seven principal bas-reliefs representing different Indian mythological stories. A large collection of his work is displayed in the Venkatappa Gallery in Bangalore. He was also associated with the Chamarajendra Technical Institute in Mysore which is now the Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts.