Jehangir Sabavala’s last six works now at Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai

Family of painter donates his easels, brushes, palettes to CSMVS The family of the late master painter donates his final six paintings, study material and archives to the museum for maintenance and public display

Article by Reema Gehi | Times of India

28_05_2015_001_014_010The family of celebrated modernist painter Jehangir Sabavala has donated the last of his six canvases including an unfin ished work, which he created between 2009 and 2010, to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Fort. These works, along with a selection of paraphernalia from the artist’s studio, will find a permanent home in the second floor of the museum complex. Sabavala’s widow, Shireen and their daughter Aafreed, have also bequeathed a substantial, but undisclosed, sum to the museum to pay for the upkeep of the paintings. “The works would just be sitting here, wrapped up,“ she told Mumbai Mirror. “We’d rather share it with the city.“

The six artworks, each of them an oil on canvas -Brown Landscape, The Cobras, The Eye, The Raven, Blue Seascape and The Unfinished Landscape -are being treated at the Museum Art Conservation Centre at CSMVS. To commemorate the acquisition, a preview will be held at the museum’s Curator’s Gallery, soon. “The museum is creating space to accommodate not only the art of the past, but also the art of the present for future,“ said its director general, Sabyasachi Mukherjee.

28_05_2015_001_014_008After Sabavala passed away in September 2011, Shireen maintained his studio on Altamount Road in its extant condition brushes, paints, and canvases neatly set in order where the artist had placed them. Every painting of his is traceable, as Sabavala maintained complete records. Not only did he chronicle his own work, but he also made notes of the things that fascinated him, the exhibitions he viewed, and amassed news clippings, photographs, catalogues, and sketches of his work. A volunteer, working at his studio for several months, archived every detail of Sabavala’s life.

The painter’s material effects, including easels; brushes; palettes; old watercolour drawings; books such as those on the Expressionist Lyonel Feininger, to which Sabavala often referred; serigraphs; notes and sketch books will be donated to the museum.“Between his notes and sketches, papa created his paintings,“ said Aafreed, recalling how she and her mother spent hours at Mahableshwar, while her father made voluble comments on the changing colour of the sky, which would eventually translate in his paintings.

28_05_2015_010_020_008Always considered “the other modernist“, Sabavala, unlike his contemporaries MF Husain, Tyeb Mehta and Krishen Khanna, was not part of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group. He studied art extensively.After receiving his fine arts diploma from Sir JJ School of Art in 1944, he moved to Europe, and completed his education at renowned arts schools ­ The Heatherly School of Art, London (1945-1947), The Academie Julian and Academie Andre Lhote, Paris (1948-51), The Academie Julian (1953-54) and The Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, Paris (1957).

He then returned to Mumbai, to become a pioneer of the city’s art scene.

Between 1951 and 1964, he was an apprentice of the cubist style.From 1964 to 1976, he started exploring the visionary landscape, which was not an optical representation of geographic scene, but created with a metaphysical dimension. Then, 1976 onwards, he began creating spectral figures.Until the 1980s his colour palette was quiet and subdued, but, surprisingly, in the last 15 years he used vibrant colours.

His last show in 2008, Ricors: An Exhibition of Painting by Jehangir Sabavala, on which he worked for over two-and-a-half years, was a summary of all the three phases he went through as an artist. A film was made to mark the show, the DVD of which will be available at the museum for viewing. The family has also set up the Jehangir Sabavala Foundation and hosted their first memorial lecture by painter, author and photographer Richard Lannoy in October 2012.They’ll also oversee the display at the museum.