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Artist of the Day | Jehangir Sabavala

Jehangir Sabavala - The Star that Beckons

Jehangir Sabavala

The Star that Beckons


Oil on canvas

48 x 38.25 in


"My art, a mixture of academic, impressionist and cubist texture, form and colour, acquired a distinct style in the mid ’60s. And with each step I have evolved a new experience. But if I look back, I find I have carried all the elements forward."

Born in 1922 in Mumbai, Jehangir Sabavala studied at the best-known art colleges of the world. After receiving his first fine arts diploma from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, in 1944, Sabavala went to Europe and studied at the Heatherley School of Art, London, from 1945 to 1947, and in Paris at the Academie Andre Lhote from 1948 to 1951, the Academie Julian from 1953 to 1954, and the Academic de la Grande Chaumiere in 1957.

Sabavala works most often in oils, creating landscapes, seascapes and figures deftly with his brush, and has recently begun to paint cityscapes as well. Describing his palette as quiet, this modern Indian artist says that veiled light and middle-tones appeal to him much more than pure colours and loud imagery. An artist practicing in the modernist style with a deeply ingrained classical influence, Jehangir Sabavala creates almost geometric wedges out of paint, which he puts together to form vast, tranquil scenes. These ‘receding planes’ give each canvas an illusory sense of depth, illustrating Sabavala’s mastery over light, colour, and texture.

In the artist's early works, the human form emerged as only a minuscule element on the canvas, shrouded in silence and encapsulating the notion of solitude perfectly. However, his figures, over the many years that Sabavala has painted, have begun to reveal more and more of themselves, even though they are still distanced from the viewer.

Sabavala’s career has spanned more than sixty years since his first solo exhibition held in a hired room of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, put up with the help of fellow artist M.F. Husain and a couple of carpenters. To the artist’s credit are over thirty solo exhibitions held across India as well as abroad. His most recent solo exhibits include 'Ricorso' at Aicon Gallery, New York, in 2009 and Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, in 2008; and ‘Jehangir Sabavala: A Retrospective’ organized by Sakshi Gallery at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai and New Delhi, in 2005-06. Sabavala’s works have also been featured in numerous group exhibitions all over the world, including more recently, ‘Trends and Techniques - Water Color in India’ at Galerie 88, Kolkata in 2005; ‘The Search’, Mumbai, in 2004; and in a display of the Jehangir Nicholson Collection, Mumbai, also in 2004.

Three monographs have been published on this artist already, by eminent art publishers including the house of Tata- McGraw-Hill and the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. ‘Colours of Absence’, a film on his life, won the National Award in 1994. Sabavala was awarded the ‘Padma Shri’ by the Government of India in 1977, and the Lalit Kala Ratna by the President of India in 2007.

Jehangir Sabavala passed away in 2011.

courtesy of

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