abstract art

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

India 1924 - 2001

Abstract Art

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
March 28, 2015

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde was one of India’s most prominent abstract artists. Self-critical and confident, Gaitonde scorned sentimentality in his biography and his artistic practice. There’s a very strong correlation between the way Gaitonde thought, the way he lived, and the way he painted. His practice began in the late 1950s in a nonrepresentational mode – or, as he preferred to call it, a nonobjective style.

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s background and early years

Gaitonde was born in Maharashtra, India, in 1924. The artist graduated from the J.J. School of Art, Bombay (Mumbai), in 1948. Shortly after he became associated with the Progressive Artists’ Group founded in 1947 by artists K.H. Ara, S.K. Bakre, H.A. Gade, M.F. Hussain, S.H. Raza, and F.N. Souza. The group, based in Mumbai, aimed at breaking away from all clichéd representations in Indian art.

Gaitonde’s style

Though widely considered one of India’s foremost abstractionists, Gaitonde was always quick to dismiss the title, referring to his work as ‘non-objective’ and affirming ‘there is no such thing as abstract art’. Gaitonde experimented with form and shape by creating large gradated surfaces with meticulously applied pigments, from which he would thereafter painstakingly remove areas with a palette knife. Given the laborious nature of his technique, he produced an extremely limited number of finished works. Influenced by ancient calligraphy and Zen philosophy, Gaitonde’s work has been recognized for its skill of being able to transform generic elements into ethereal platforms for spiritual introspection.

Personal life of Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

Gaitonde was famously private. He gave few interviews, wrote next to nothing about his art, and only produced five or six paintings a year. Very little is known about his personal life. Gaitonde isolated himself very early in his career from everything in his environment which he considered irrelevant to his intensity as a painter. Alongside art, he was an avid admirer of Indian and Western poetry, cinema, literature, theater, and classical music.

Gaitonde’s influence on other artists

The influence of Vasudeo S. Gaitonde’s abstract paintings on modern and contemporary Indian art is hard to overestimate. His minimalist landscapes, reminiscent in turns of Kandinski, Rothko and Malevich, were a bold departure in the history of Indian art. But he also exerted a direct influence as a teacher on many artists who would become important in their own right – artists like Nasreen Mohamedi, who refined Gaitonde’s minimalism to the sparest, cleanest gestures.

Gaitonde’s awards and exhibitions

He was awarded first prize at the Young Asian Artits’ Exhibition in Tokyo in 1957. The American Abstract Expressionists made a significant impact on his artistic vision. In 1964 he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant and spent several years in New York, where he was profoundly influenced by painters like Mark Rothko. He received the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honors in 1971, and a Kalidas Samman award in 1989–90.

Gaitonde’s paintings, often compared with those of many well-known Western artists, are widely exhibited. While he lived, his work appeared in solo shows in New Delhi, Mumbai and New York. Posthumously, his work has appeared in dozens of group shows around the world. His works are in permanent collection of Museum of Modern Art (New York), National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi), Glenbarra Art Museum (Himeji, Japan), and many more.

Gaitonde lived and worked in New Delhi, where he passed away in August 2001.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2014V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as LifeSolomon R Guggenheim Museum, New YorkSolo
2013Pioneers of ModernismSovereign FZE, DubaiGroup
2013Nothing is Absolute: A Journey through AbstractionThe Jehangir Nicholson Gallery at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, IndiaGroup
2012One Eye Sees, the Other FeelsThe Viewing Room, Mumbai, IndiaGroup
2012Through the Ages: South Asian Sculpture and Painting from Antiquity to ModernismAicon Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2012Crossings: Time Unfolded, Part 2Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi, IndiaGroup
2011V. S. Gaitonde: Works from Private CollectionsSaffronart, New DelhiSolo
2011Adbhutam: Rasa in Indian ArtCentre of International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata, IndiaGroup
2011Modern MastersAicon Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2011Manifestations VIDelhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, IndiaGroup
2011Manifestations VDelhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, IndiaGroup
2011Roots in the Air, Branches Below: Modern & Contemporary Art from IndiaSan Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, USAGroup
2011Time UnfoldedKiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New DelhiGroup
2010The Progressives & AssociatesGrosvenor Gallery, London, UKGroup
2010Black and WhiteGalerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, MumbaiGroup
1982Festival of IndiaLondon, UKGroup
1980Vasudeo S. GaitondeBombay, IndiaSolo
1977Vasudeo S. GaitondeBombay, IndiaSolo
1974Vasudeo S. GaitondeBombay, IndiaSolo
1973Vasudeo S. GaitondeNew Delhi, IndiaSolo
1973Vasudeo S. GaitondeBombay, IndiaSolo
1971Vasudeo S. GaitondeNew Delhi, IndiaSolo
1970Vasudeo S. GaitondeBombay, IndiaSolo
1967Vasudeo S. GaitondeBombay, IndiaSolo
1966Vasudeo S. GaitondeBombay, IndiaSolo
1965Vasudeo S. GaitondeNew York, USSolo
1963Group ShowLondon, UKGroup
1963Group ShowNew York, USGroup
1959Vasudeo S. GaitondeNew Delhi, IndiaSolo
1959Group ShowLondon, UKGroup
1959Group ShowNew York, USGroup
1958Group ShowLondon, UKGroup
1958Group ShowNew York, USGroup
19575,000 Years of Indian ArtEssex, UKGroup
1957Young Asian ArtistsTokyo, JapanGroup
1956Indian Art ExhibitionEastern EuropeGroup
1949Progressive Art Group ExhibitionBombay Art Society Salon, Bombay, IndiaGroup