Jehangir Sabavala is an Indian artist, with a career that has spanned more than 60 years. His paintings sell for huge sums at international art auctions. He was born into a Parsi family in Mumbai, and grew up in different countries around the world, and finally became one of the most renowned artists in the post-colonial art history of India.
Jehangir Sabavala studied art at some of the most prestigious art schools in the world. During his early years, Sabavala experimented with the austere cubism of his teacher Andre Lhote, combining it with the opulence of India, to create beautiful paintings. During this period, his work mainly featured landscapes from India, including beach scenes and sea-scapes.
In the mid-1960’s Jahangir Sabavala returned to India, after a long stay in various foreign countries. While in India, he looked to develop a style that would reflect his diverse lineage, including the formal training in impressionism, cubism and expressionism, which he had received in the West. He wanted his art to be acceptable and understandable to Indians, and embody his cross-cultural origins.
If you view Jahangir Sabavala’s paintings that were created in the mid-60s, you will notice beautiful Indian landscapes, with masses of clouds, mist-covered mountains and seas. Later on, the artist’s style gradually began to shift away from cubism influences. After 1965, Sabavala’s paintings began displaying his strong focus on man’s relationship with the ageless cosmos. Most of the artist’s paintings from this period feature wanderers, such as pilgrims, monks, nuns, refugees, ascetics and questors.
Vespers I – Painting By Jehangir Sabavala
In June 2012, a beautiful canvas painting by Jehangir Sabavala, named ‘Vesper’s I’, was sold for $391,021(£253,650) at Bonhams. Vespers I is the perfect representation of this transitory phase in Jahangir Sabavala’s oeuvre. It is considered to be one of the most notable works of Jehangir Sabavala, and was displayed for the first time at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, India.
The Vespers I painting shows a group of nuns praying in a room, which seems to be the interior of a chapel or abbey. Gathered together in prayer, the figures of the nuns can barely be separated. According to art critics, painting is an allegorical (symbolic) representation of the seclusion and renunciation, undertaken by the nuns. The word ‘vespers’ is actually a term which means evening prayer for different types of Christians, like Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans.
This brilliant piece is dotted with allegories, and was the show stealer at the Bonham’s art auction, even resulting in a sales room struggle between two bidders. With its final sale price of $391,021, ‘Vespers I’ surpassed pre-sale estimates of £100,000-150,000.
Jehangir Sabavala was always fascinated with the monastic life led by nuns and monks. He often compared the hours he spent painting in his art studio, to the disciplined life led by monks, which was filled with prayers, studies and meditation. Sabavala once said that he found the draped and cowled figures of nuns/ monks very interesting from a technical point of view, as it provided volume and bulk elements to play with.