NEW DELHI .-
It is with a heavy heart that we bid a final farewell to one of the greats of Indian art and a dear friend, Ram Kumar. For us at Vadehra Art Gallery
we mourn the loss of a mentor and passionate supporter who has been a part of the birth and growth of our gallery. We have held over 22 solo exhibitions by Ram Kumar over the years and it was with Ram Kumar, A Journey Within in 1996 the gallery started its foray into publication. Mr. Arun Vadehra remembers - Ram Kumars life, as also his art, was a sadhana an effort where the result was often forgotten or the result was not what mattered, it was the effort that did.
Ram Kumar was a prolific painter and a passionate writer, with a creative career spanning over seven decades since he gave up his job at a bank to learn art under Sailoz Mukherjee at Sharda Ukil School of Art in 1948. Born into large family in Shimla, Ram Kumar initially pursued his MA in Economics from St. Stephens College in Delhi. However soon after his introduction to art, in 1949 he borrowed money from his father and travelled to Paris to study art with the support of a French Embassy scholarship. In Paris he studied under Cubist painter Fernand Léger and sculptor and figurative painter André Lhote, producing figurative painting in these early years. He said, My figuratives were more of the urban predicament, fueled by socialist realism. While in Paris he met SH Raza and stayed with him for a short period during which time urban cityscapes begin to appear as backdrops to his figures. In 1960 he travelled to Varanasi with MF Husain, and this marked a turning point in his life and this magical city would remain his muse for the rest of his life. From here on abstract landscapes became his main subject, rendered time and again as an amalgamation of colours and textures. Ram Kumars landscapes often straddle the boundaries between abstraction and naturalism, quoting both but succumbing to neither.
Ram Kumar was a vital part of the Indian modernist scene and was associated with the Progressive Artists Group as well as the Delhi Shilpa Chakra. Despite these associations he never easily fit into a simplistic modernist narrative as he constantly sought to rediscovery of elemental origins within the lingua franca of the landscape, and the spiritual properties of meditative melancholia in the making and viewing of these abstract landscapes.
Ram Kumar has exhibited his works in solo and group shows in London, New York, France, Japan and India. Significant shows include two-person show with M.F. Husain in Delhi and Prague, (1967), Festival of India shows in the then USSR and Japan (1987-88), The Moderns, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai (1996), Works from 1940-1993, NGMA Delhi and Mumbai (1994); Ram Kumar A Journey Within, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi (1996); Ramkumar: A Retrospective, Aicon Gallery, London (2011); Ram Kumar and the Bombay Progressives: The Form and Figure, Aicon Gallery, London (2013) and Pioneers of Modernism, Sovereign FZE, Dubai (2013).
He went to the US after receiving the J.D. Rockefeller III Fund Fellowship in 1970-71. He has been honored with Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1972 and Kalidas Samman by the Government of Madhya Pradesh in 1986.