Rajendra Dhawan


Dhawan’s paintings, with their sensitively rendered washes of blues, browns and reds, draw the viewer in to their unfathomable depths, compelling him to engage in a deeper communion. In the pure formalism one can see influences from Rothko but in the dialogues between silence and movement, one can intuit conversations with Gaitonde.


Dhawan is one of those rare artists whose works transcend his era. His paintings are some of the best examples of painterly abstraction in post-modern times. His meditative approach to painting enables him to create works with almost a zen-like minimalism, where sometimes even parts of the canvas-surface are left untouched, while other areas are brilliantly articulated with a single layer of diluted colors.


Rajendra Dhawan, born in 1936 in Delhi, embarked on his journey at the Delhi School of Art. His quest for exploration and expression led him to Ecole des beaux Arts, Paris (1953-1958), and later to the Belgrade Institute of Art (1960-62). Dhawan’s early career saw him teaching painting in India until 1962, after which he received a grant to travel to Yugoslavia (1964-66). Notably, he founded ‘The Unknown’ group, showcasing their works in 1964, and his paintings have earned a place in esteemed public collections worldwide.


Dhawan, while not intentionally embracing abstraction, is often categorized as an impressionist. His works lean towards the spiritual and timeless realm of colour-field painting, hinting at a suspension of tangibility. In his own words, “I bring into painting my life experience,” encapsulating an evolving journey. The palette in his paintings conjures the texture of a tertiary landscape, blending the graininess and watery deposits with the lightness of clouds and air. His artistic idiom often peels off layers of the environment, revealing its inner essence, drawing comparisons to midnight dreams of lingering calmness.


In 1970, Dhawan made Paris his home, adding an international dimension to his artistic endeavors. His passing in 2012 left an irreplaceable void in the art world. His last exhibitions, including ‘Requiem’ at Threshold Art Gallery, New Delhi (2011), showcased the culmination of his artistic evolution. Other significant exhibitions were held in prestigious galleries such as Bodhi Art Gallery, Singapore and Mumbai (2005); Gallery White Elephant, Paris (2004); Talwar Art Gallery, New York (2002); Gallery Seven, Mumbai (2001); Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi (1998); Galerie L’lf, Elne, France (1995); Gallery Phillippe Bouakia, Paris (1994); Gallery La Pardelere, Nantes (1993); and Gallery Francois, Paris (1990).


Rajendra Dhawan’s contribution to art is not only reflected in his exhibitions but also in the permanence of his works in public collections. His last two exhibitions, Requiem works in Threshold Art Gallery, New Delhi in 2011; Bodhi Art Gallery, Singapore and Mumbai in 2005; Gallery White Elephant, Paris, 2004; Talwar art Gallery, New York, 2002.; Gallery Seven, Mumbai in 2001; Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi in 1998; Galerie L’lf, Elne, France in 1995; Gallery Phillippe Bouakia, Paris, 1994; Gallery La Pardelere, Nantes, 1993; Gallery Francois, Paris, 1990; and Gallery du Haut-pave, Paris, 1972; ‘The Unknown’, All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi, 1964. His paintings find place in public collections including the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; the Foundation of Contemporary Art, Paris; The Glenbarra Museum In Japan; Terr us Museum in Elne, France; Riga-ult Museum in Perpignan and The Fond National d’Art Contemporain Convent Saint – Jacques in Paris.

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