K. G. SUBRAMANYAN (1924-2016)
Untitled (Elephant; Bull; Monkey)
wood with mirrors and beads; wood with leather; wood with leather, metal and jute fiber
4 x 5 x 212 in. (10.2 x 12.7 x 6.4 cm.); 612 x 9 x 3 in. (16.5 x 22.9 x 7.6 cm.); 9 x 5 x 3 in. (22.9 x 12.7 x 7.6 cm.)
Three sculptures
Gift from by the artist
Thence by descent
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Lot Essay

K. G. Subramanyan, affectionately known as ‘Manida,’ was an esteemed scholar, prolific writer, revered teacher and a brilliant artist. In the years following Indian independence, Subramanyan was passionately involved in political activism, and he brought this fervor with him to Kala Bhavan at Santiniketan in 1944. It was there he studied under monumental figures like Benode Behari Mukherjee, Nandalal Bose and Ramkikar Baij, who had a significant influence on his career as an artist and intellectual.

Greatly influenced by Indian folk art traditions and Bengali art practices such as Kalighat and Pattchitra painting, Subramanyan believed that contemporary artists must also understand local craft techniques. Indigenous forms of expression were central to the nationalist ethos at Santiniketan, and the emphasis on craft in Subramanyan’s work and teaching encapsulates the significance of local and rural traditions in the modern art movement in India. For him, integrating folk and contemporary art was a political act.

Subramanyan’s toys epitomize this integration. He honors local artistic heritage while bringing modern sculptural elements and techniques to these works. Subramanyan’s toys not only represented aesthetic innovation, but were also a way of connecting with the broader community in Baroda where he taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts at M.S. University. Several of his toys were designed for the Faculty’s Fine Arts Fair, an annual festival that remains extremely popular in the city.

The present works are especially indicative of Subramanyan’s playful experimentation with indigenous traditions and materials. Defined by a rebellious spirit, each creatively crafted animal embodies a lively era of instruction, creation, and collaboration in Baroda, and is certain to delight viewers of any age.
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