Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

Untitled | Mumbai | oil on canvas | 140.3 x 101.9 cm.

“Gaitonde has stood like a rock in the sea of fashion. His achievement is as real as it is historical.”

Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, art critic

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, given what critic Geeta Kapur has described as his contemporaries’ “commit[ment] to augmenting its iconographic resources.” 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 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. As the late art critic Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni explained in 1983, “Gaitonde isolated himself very early in his career from everything in his environment which he considered irrelevant to [his] intensity as a painter."

A few details emerge: He received a diploma from the Sir J.J. School of Art in 1948, and was awarded first prize at the Young Asian Artits’ Exhibition in Tokyo in 1957, where he may also have traveled (experts are still unsure). What’s clear is that 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. In 1971, he was given the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards. 

Gaitonde was born in Maharashtra, India, in 1924, and passed away in New Delhi in 2001. 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, and, in November, 2014 a solo retrospective was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, which travelled to the Peggy Guggenheim museum, Venice in 2015.

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Works by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

Specialists in South Asian Modern+Contemporary Art at Christie's

  • Sonal Singh
    • South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art
    • Mumbai
    • Managing Director, India and Senior Specialist
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