Tyeb Mehta (25th July 1925 - 2nd July 2009)
"I live and work in isolation. I don't know young artists today. Nobody comes to my door to ask me about my craft. I don't have time for ‘art dos' nor do I relate to new works. Great artistic traditions like music and dance are passed on by interaction. This is how art lived and grew through the Progressives. How else will true art be passed on?"
Bull in a Mountain Landscape - situated on the 14th floor lift lobby, ITC Maurya.
Most early Indian art depicts a traditional bond with nature, particularly animals, which are treated with such tenderness, that a natural attraction or a feeling of kinship is evident. The pillars erected by the Mauryan emperors were each crowned by lions, or in one case at Rampurva with the superb naturalistic rendering of monumental bull. Humped bulls appear from the third millennium B.C.E. in the Indus Valley, giving us some indication of their permanent value in an agrarian society. They also appear on Mauryan coins.
This became the inspiration for Tyeb Mehta's very powerful rendering of the 'Bull in a Mountain Landscape' though with a very different meaning that reflects the artist's interpretation of their predicament today.
From the very beginning Tyeb Mehta's work has been concerned with the human condition in urban society. Drawn from the streets of Mumbai where he lived, they recreate a sense of terror and utter helplessness. The fragmentation of the urban mind is expressed through a jagged line which cuts diagonally, splitting the canvas like a bolt of lightning – red, orange, green, white and black and a striking proportion, the painting refuses to pass by without arresting your attention.
In 2002 when Tyeb Mehta’s painting Celebration sold at a Christie’s auction for US$ 317,500, or 15 million Indian rupees, it established the highest recorded price paid for an Indian painting.
A series of his other painting like Kali which sold at 10 million Indian rupees,Durga which sold for US$ 1.584 million, Gestures which sold at 31 million Indian rupees in 2005 and another that sold for US$ 2 million in 2008, made Tyeb Mehta the first contemporary Indian artist whose work commanded over a million US dollars.
It was indicative of a new trend in the international market… a new interest in paintings by Indian artists.
Tyeb Mehta remained India’s most iconic artist in, particularly, the last quarter of the 20th century. Financial value, however, was not something to which Tyeb Mehta gave too much merit. He was also not the kind of artist who could take advantage of a sudden career spurt by churning out new work. He was a slow, meticulous painter and a ruthless self-editor who destroyed many more pictures than he allowed out of the studio.
Independence and solitude were, for him, beyond price.
He has left the world today but his legacy will live on.