Works by cartoonist RK Laxman at Sotheby's auction

The Common Man creator's sketches will be auctioned alongside rare works by Gaitonde, Sabavala, Souza and Sher-Gil on November 15 in Mumbai

Jasodhara Banerjee
Published: Nov 14, 2019 04:03:53 PM IST
Updated: Nov 14, 2019 05:34:57 PM IST

g_123587_rk_laxman_280x210.jpgAn RK Laxman work from 1966 that is up for bids at Sotheby's Mumbai auction.

For its second Indian auction, to be held in Mumbai, New York-headquartered auction house Sotheby’s has curated 61 lots of works that span a range of genres. A never-seen painting by Vasudeo Gaitonde goes under the hammer, along with a single-owner painting bought directly from artist Jehangir Sabahvala. A couple of armchairs with upholstery painted by Bhupen Khakhar feature on the catalogue, as does a bronze sculpture by KS Radhakrishnan, reminiscent of the ancient and iconic Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-daro.

Click through the slideshow below to see the works on auction

Lot 45, Francis Newton Souza, The Last Supper (1990)

Lot 18, Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman, Untitled, On the way to Border (1966)

Lot 18, Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman, Untitled, On the Way to Border (1966)

Lot 19, Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman, Untitled (1998)

Lot 19, Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman, Untitled (1998)

Lot 20, Jehangir Sabavala, The Hooded Day (1970)

Lot 22, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Untitled, Oil on canvas, 1974, 152.7 x 101.6 cm

Lot 36, K.S. Radhakrishnan, Maiya as Graduate (2000)

Lot 61, Bhupen Khakhar, Two Armchairs

Titled ‘Boundless: India’, the lots are meant to represent not just works that have been within India—the Gaitonde, for instance, has been with actor and society doyenne Sabira Merchant for over 40 years—but also those by Indian artists that have so long been in collections around the world, such as Francis Souza’s The Last Supper, which has been brought in from a collection in Japan.

But amid the doyens of fine art that are most visible and publicised, not just for the works themselves but also for the price they are expected to fetch—the Gaitonde has an estimated starting price of Rs 21 crore to Rs 28 crore—are the sketches of one of the most well-known and loved ‘artists’, RK Laxman.

Best known as the creator of The Common Man, representing the troubles, hopes and aspirations of the average Indian, Laxman became a household name because of a comic strip titled ‘You Said It’, that ran in The Times of India since 1951.

“He’s been with me throughout my career. I did not find him. He found me… I would say he symbolises the mute millions of India, or perhaps the whole world, a silent spectator of marching time,” Laxman once said of his Common Man.

In the course of his prolific artistic career, he drew more than 9,000 political cartoons and another 7,000 socio-political cartoons for ‘You Said It’; he depicted more than 500 statesmen and political leaders in full-page caricatures for The Illustrated Weekly of India and almost as many film personalities for Filmfare.

“It is not often that cartoonists are considered artists in their own right. We wanted to include Laxman’s works in this auction to indicate that he was as much an artist as any of the others we have here,” says Yamini Mehta, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s India. Going up for auction will be two lots of sketches of ink and pencil on paper—one is untitled and the other is called ‘On the way to the border’—that are drawn in the simple, sometimes poignant style that is characteristic of Laxman. They have a starting price of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh.

For an artist known for his extraordinary perspective of the politics and economy of the country, and an untiring humourist who revelled in the ridiculous, the irony of the moment would perhaps be fodder for yet another sketch.

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