Rajendra Dhawan began his journey as an artist in Delhi, at the College of Art (1953- 58), thereafter studying in Belgrade from 1960-62, but was also anxious to see a change in the Indian art scene, and was thus part of founding The Unknowns group that functioned from 1960-64. the years following his return from Belgrade, he worked as an artist and held a number of shows, but also taught art at a college in Phagwara, Punjab. In 1970, he finally quit India to go to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, settling there, only to make infrequent visits to New Delhi for a few exhibitions thereafter. In Paris, he was described as a ‘painter’s painter’ by his peers, but Dhawan preferred to keep to himself, even though comparisons were made of his work to V. S. Gaitonde and J. Swaminathan.
At the time of Dhawan’s career in Paris, two other prominent Indian abstractionists lived there, S. H. Raza and V. Viswanadhan, but unlike them, Dhawan did not claim an indigenist abstraction, simply letting his art be for its own sake. The colours melded together in his works, never in contrast, never opposed to each other, having, instead, a quiet conversation, one moving seamlessly into another.
The metaphysical nature of Dhawan’s work stayed constant throughout his career, with no shifts or turns that are discernible., even to the extent that the artist, looking back at a lifetime of work, in 2011, a year before he passed away, observed in an exhibition catalogue: ‘My works have evolved as I have with time. I paint today as I did years ago, but when I sometimes look back, I see that change. It was a subtle, slow change.’