Painter’s pride: A portrait of Baburao Sadwelkar            - Ciby Samuel

Portraiture could be said as the most alluring of arts that could be appreciated by any and every one alike. One cannot but marvel at the grand portraits of kings, queens and noblemen in palaces and museums! But in today’s age with the advent of photography and craze of selfies, this art has taken a back foot in terms of connoisseurship. Akin to seeing commercial portraits, people today enjoy just the likeness. But for an artist, portraiture means a plethora of explorations. This blog explores the idea of portraiture with renowned artist Baburao Sadwelkar’s self-portrait.

Ciby Samuel is a young artist with expertise in portraiture. Alumni of Sir J.J. School, Mumbai and advocate of its academics and rich painterly heritage, Ciby’s practice evolves from academic portraiture and painting to expressive depictions of people and experiences. His journey from realism to abstraction showcases his understanding of fine nuances of painter. He has won numerous accolades and has done successful shows. He has a pragmatic approach towards classical art and a special eye towards portrait painting. He currently lives and works in Mumbai.

Painting a portrait is an alluring act. Apart from the study it is a meditative practice, where one can explore a character of person, understanding its formal limitations and breaking the same limits to paint which is beyond academic realism. We get to see different perceptions regarding portrait painting, over the ages we can also identify those changes that has been occurred.

I joined Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai especially to learn what I loved i.e portraiture. School of Art was and is still famous for its academic realism especially Portraiture. Year by year I got to know about several old masters from JJ, whose works influenced me in each and every stage of my educational timeline. But amongst all I personally like one legendary artist Baburao Sadwelkar (1928- 2000) Kolhapur; His work stood out for me from all the other artists, maybe because I liked his work as I could relate his approach with my own temperaments. He did his diploma in JJ during 1950s and later joined as a Professor in the same school. In the year 1962 he was awarded “Full bright” an American Scholarship. His approach towards portraiture was very different from other artists of his contemporary. Even though other artists of that period made their own mark, still Sadwelkar’s portraits stands out from others. His Teachers also used to get overwhelmed by seeing his Impressionistic approach with his unique, bold and minimal brushstrokes. His tendency to experiment or try something new in portrait paintings made him reach a different level which was peerless.

One of his work which I like the most is his Self Portrait probably a practice work done during his College days in 1950s. When I saw this work for the first time I was just stunned. I literally kept on looking at it for hours and I still love to see it again and again. I could feel that energy of a youngster painting with lot of vehemence in this portrait. He has painted himself till shoulders, probably on small size of canvas or oil paper. Overall it seems like a painter’s pride to do a portrait and expressing his individual identity. Through the facial expressions he seems to be very happy while painting. Even the posture doesn’t seem lazy because he always loved to work spontaneously and in limited time. I personally felt a wave of positive energy while looking at this work, as the person in the portrait is smiling at you and feels like he himself is alive in his work. The expression which he has captured with spontaneity and bold brushstrokes within limited time is what makes the whole work pretty interesting. I personally can’t imagine him painting miniatures because I feel his interest was more towards modern art than Indian traditional art. Though he worked spontaneously he had a good understanding over oil colour pigments.

In this portrait I feel the dominance of Yellow, Raw umber and Burnt Umber with its tint, tone and shades, maybe because he might have used a yellow spot light for his study. It also could be an urge to handle a different colour palette than the usual. Very few artists had that daring to use thick black colour in portraits which is visible in this work. Another characteristic of this work is the play of contrast, he has experimented different colour contrasts in different works. Loose brushstrokes of Filbert brush is another great characteristic of his work. Along with the tonal values he has taken the support brushstrokes to create volume of the head(the brushstrokes form a circular shape). The strokes doesn’t look rigid in any manner but they seem to be more easy and flexible, which shows the character of the artist himself of letting loose during the process of painting rather than striving for a desired pre planned results. The final output may be different from the initial thought, because during the process of painting few ideas visually may not look good. So accepting the changes that occur during the process and the courage to do something different is what makes an artist versatile.

His later works are more simplified and bold, portrait called ‘Bobby’ is far beyond the self-portrait work. A fair lady wearing a dark skin fit t-shirt standing with one hand in her trousers pocket. His minimalistic approach in this work is the main characteristic. This shows his urge to do something new rather repeating the same approach. Sadwelkar never did a commercial portrait in his life, he has stated this in his book. This would be the sole reason that he could experiment on his portraits without any hesitation. For him portrait was a spiritual and alluring act. He did not want his passion to be a lucrative act.

(Indxart is extremely glad to bring to you a series of blogs by guest writers who are artists, who shall be looking as various aspects and finesse of art creations in the coming months.)

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