“Each painting has a history and a destiny”
A grieving mother mourns her dead son, she holds him tenderly and points a finger to his body. “Why did they do this to him”, her pursed lips seem to ask. Pieta, a, oil- on- canvas work by one of India’s celebrated painters, Krishen Khanna, 88, in 1978, will be a part of the Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art Auction to be held in London on June 11. Pieta, has been offered for the first time at the auction, for an estimate price of £ 100,000- 150,000. The figurative work of Mary holding Jesus’ body is, painted in blue, grey, purple pink and earth hues. The scene, as it were, can be visualised across the globe where war and strife fuel such tragic scenes even now. “The grieving mother has every right to question the death of her son,” says Khanna, who continues to paint daily at his basement studio in his art- filled Gurgaon home. “This is the second or third pieta that I was painting then. Each one is different,” he says. Khanna still keeps one painting from the series at his home, “Each painting has a history behind it and a destiny.” This Pieta was painted in the US on request. Unfortunately, once completed the painting got less than a tepid response from those who commissioned it. “I don’t like that kind or reponse, especially to a picture that is meaningful,” says the artist. “The man said that ‘ she looks very sad and aggressive’, I said yes she is an aggrieved mother and has every reason to be that,” he recalls the conversation as if it was yesterday. The couple was probably worried about the painting not ‘ fitting’ in their sitting room. Once, back home in India, Khanna wrote to them and offered to accept his painting back if they did not want it. They returned it and Mumbai- based businessman Dilip De bought it. The destiny of the 1978 Pieta has now taken it to Sothebys but Khanna is not too interested in price it fetches. He, himself is yet to attend an auction. He just wants it to go to someone who appreciates the painting for what it is. “I don’t want it to go to someone who puts it in a strongbox, saying it is worth so much money and will fetch more. It is not a share script,” says Khanna. According to him, a painting develops a relationship with the person who acquires it. “Even when a painting is away I still think it is mine. Someone gave me money and took it, but it is mine,” he says. “I am unhappy if a painting does not do well, if it is not liked. I would want it back, not discarded.” The Pieta , irrespective of the final bid, continues its destined journey.