One of India’s most revered artists, Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde preferred the term ‘non-objective’ painter over ‘abstraction.’ He was born in Nagpur in 1924.
He received his diploma in painting from Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, in 1948. Impressed by his work, the members of the Progressive Artists’ Group—formed in 1947—pulled him into their meetings. The strength of his talent was soon recognised elsewhere—he won the first prize of the Young Asian Artists Association in Tokyo in 1957, and a John D. Rockefeller III Fund fellowship in 1964.
The textural structure with the interplay of colour is the central conductive device in Gaitonde’s paintings. His compositions, inspired by Zen philosophy, possess a kinetic power that imparts movement to his delicately balanced configurations. For Gaitonde, art began in an intensity that moved steadily towards refining itself, even as it explored the artist’s inward spaces and momentary realities. Gaitonde used a roller and a palette knife to influence and mix different mediums on canvas.
Though Gaitonde was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1971, his real success came after his death. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York organised a large exhibition of his works posthumously in 2014-15, while the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, organised another one in 2019. He was among the first Indian modernists whose works created high value at auctions; they continue to enjoy that position. Gaitonde passed away on 10 August 2001 in New Delhi.
‘Gaitonde refused to call himself an abstract artist, for he believed that non-figurative art was as involved with perceiving and expressing reality as figurative art’
The ‘Manifestations’ series of 20th Century Indian Art, Editions V, VI, VIII
DAG, New Delhi, 2011-12
‘Indian Portraits: The Face of a People’
DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2014
‘Indian Abstracts: An Absence of Form’
DAG, New Delhi, 2014; Mumbai and New York, 2015
‘India’s Rockefeller Artists: An Indo-US Cultural Saga’
DAG, New York, 2017; Mumbai, 2018
'Iconic: Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art'
DAG, Mumbai, 2022
National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
Jehangir Nicholson Foundation, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai