Signed, dated and inscribed 'KKhanna/ GARHI-MAY 1980/ "THOU SAYEST SO"/ 70"x50"/ 178 x 127cm.' (on the reverse)
Property from a private European collection
Sotheby's / Lot 122 / The Indian Sale / 24 May 2007
Krishen Khanna, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi, 1980
Gayatri Sinha, Krishen Khanna, A Critical Biography, 2001, pg.126. (illustrated)
Krishen Khanna's introduction to allegory and religious symbolism is buried in a childhood memory which served as his instrument of engagement during troubled periods of Indian polity. The fact that Khanna's labouring men are reimaged in the Christ cycle of paintings indicate how he brings the economically disenfranchised and the religious minority on the same plane. From the 1960s, Khanna engaged in a series of paintings on Christ that started with 'The Last Supper' and 'Garden at Gethsemane' and gradually culminate in 'Betrayal', 'Christ's Descent from the Cross', 'Pieta' and 'Emmaus'. Khanna's Christ becomes emblematic of a resistance to persecution which is neither the healing Christ, the divine worker of miracles or the haloed Son of God but the persecuted figure within an oppressive system.' As an artist, he brought the Christ cycle the coherence of narrative and an explicit conflict with figures of authority, symptomatic of public life in the Indian subcontinent. [...] (Sinha, Krishen Khanna, The Embrace of Love, 2005, pg. 17)
During the 1980's, Khanna had an exhibition of thirteen works on the theme Christ's Betrayal which included the work "Thou Sayest So / The Interrogation" where Jesus is being interrogated by Pontius Pilate. The title of the work is a direct reference to the Gospel of John 18:37. ‘Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest so. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.’ The work clearly relates to the Biblical scene but the artist gave a modern context to it depicted by the army officials interrogating him in 20th century uniforms. As in the original Gospel story, the painting highlights our inability to recognise the presence of the divine as we are blinded by the mundane aspects of life such as how we see an individual based on physique and outside appearances.
In the Interrogation the rugged physique of the figures with their sun darkened bodies and rough callous faces are a representation of the labour class found in the Nizammuddin Bhogal area of Delhi, the figures of authority in military caps and Nehru topis are recognizably emblematic of the military and political establishment. 'I have used them as metaphors of authority because that is what they have come to mean in our society today'. [...] (Sinha, Krishen Khanna, A Critical Biography, 2001, pg. 135).
Born in 1925, in Lahore, Krishen Khanna worked as a banker while he studied painting as a part time programme at the Mayo School of Art. A job transfer brought him in close proximity with the members of the Progressive Artists’ Group in Mumbai, where he chose to pursue a full-time career as an artist. In 1962-63 Khanna received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Council, New York and was artist-in-residence at the American University, Washington DC. In 2010, Saffronart hosted a retrospective of his work at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. His other solo exhibitions include those held by Saffronart in association with Osborne Samuel and Berkeley Square Gallery at the Royal Academy, London, in 2007; Saffronart and Berkeley Square Gallery, London, in 2005; Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai 2004; Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1994; and Kumar Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2001, 1966, 64, 60, 59 and 58. His works were also included in exhibitions held by Saffronart and Pundole Art Gallery, New York, in 2001 and 2002. In 2011, the Government of India awarded him with the Padma Bhushan; in 2004 he received the Lalit Kala Ratna from the President of India; and in 1997 he received the Kala Ratna from the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi. Khanna lives and works in New Delhi.