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Potters Sisters

Potters Sisters

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Item Code: OT30
Oil Painting on Canvas
36 inches X 41 inches
This exceptionally fine painting, oil on canvas, rendered using just black, its various shades blended with the off-white of the canvas, its background, portrays two women in their advanced years, perhaps two sisters with closely resembling iconographic features, sharing identical anatomy and with an alike lifestyle and nature of work. As suggest the style of their wears : lehengas, half-sleeve blouses and ‘odhanis’ over their heads and shoulders, and of course, the bangles of bones on wrists, the two women are essentially from a Rajasthan’s village. The Bagru style mud-resist print, partially visible in the woman’s ‘lehenga’ and a plain mono-dyed ‘odhini’ worn covering the head, socially prescribed for a backward tribal woman in Rajasthan, more often a widow, as also the bones’ bangles and the style of hair, indicate that the portrayed women are tribal widows, perhaps potters with their pots lying around.

The two sisters are seated, perhaps on a roadside with a heap of their pots around looking for buyers, though there is none around to buy. One of the two women, perhaps the younger, is sitting on a raised seat, a stone-block or a part of wall-plinth, while the elder is squatting on the ground with her both arms resting on the knees of her upwards raised legs. For an ambience corresponding to the state of their mind the artist has painted behind them an old naked brick wall with large cracks and widened mud-joints, an appropriate backdrop for his theme : the women with all joints and all hopes broken much like the wall in the background. It seems that some sudden and somewhat unusual occurrence has drawn their attention and taken aback, dismayed and with some pain in eyes, they are looking at it.

In any case, a magnificent portrait, most characteristic art that defined the late 19th century art revolution in India, as also a little earlier in Europe, known as modern art, and sometimes as Bazaar paintings, which transformed the face of Indian art from more than a millennium old miniature painting of mineral and vegetable colours into one with a large size canvas rendered with oil or chemical colours. As regards the painting’s size it was a return to wall painting with large size and realistically rendered figures. This style of painting, now more often seen as contemporary painting, had changing faces but portrait-painting, discovering the portrayed figure inside-out : pouring one’s intrinsic being out on the canvas, especially the lower middleclass : the potter, weaver, zari-bata, dyers, factory worker, hawker, a reaper in the field, a mother burdened with domestic worries, a daughter’s marriage in particular, and millions of such aspects, was its inexhaustible saga. This painting represents the apex of this art of portrait. The artist has wondrously captured not only the portrayed figures’ class-identity or the state of their minds but indexed in their eyes things occurring around.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

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