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Krishna painting Radha

  • Object:

    Painting

  • Place of origin:

    Sri Lanka (made)

  • Date:

    1948 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Keyt, George (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in oil on canvas.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr Victor Sassoon

  • Museum number:

    IS.58-1963

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Public access description

    The painting depicts Krishna painting the figure of Radha. The two divine Hindu subjects, who represent the archetypal symbol of transcendental love, are here depicted in a manner that reflects the influences of cubism as well as the Kalighat art of Calcutta. The influence of Kalighat art can be seen in the minimal use of lines, large eyes and the curves of the bodies, whereas that of cubism can be detected in the quasi-abstract and angular figure of Krishna. In this painting, we can thus see how Keyt has adopted Western elements into his visual vocabulary to depict a hugely popular theme of Hindu mythology.

    George Keyt (1901–1993) was born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and educated at Trinity College (Kandy), an elite colonial school in the British public school tradition. Keyt gave much time to drawing and the study of art and developed a keen interest in Indian and Western literature. From a very early stage, the ancient hill capital and its Buddhist temples came to exercise a powerful and lasting influence on him, providing both a literary and artistic stimuli to his work. This interest spurred the young painter to reject the Western cultural values he had been brought up with and explore both Hindu mythology and Indian literary works. Towards the end of his career, the artist assimilated Western elements into his visual vocabulary such as Picasso’s cubism and Henri Matisse’s painterly flatness to paint Hindu mythological figures.

  • Physical description

    The painting, in oil on canvas, depicts Krishna painting the figure of Radha. The two divine Hindu subjects, who represent the archetypal symbol of transcendental love, are here depicted in a manner that reflects the influences of cubism as well as the Kalighat art of Calcutta. The influence of Kalighat art can be seen in the minimal use of lines, large eyes and the curves of the bodies, whereas that of cubism can be detected in the quasi-abstract and angular figure of Krishna.

  • Marks and inscriptions

    Signature and date in top left hand corner

  • Dimensions

    Height: 60 cm, Height: 65 cm with frame, Width: 45 cm, Width: 50 cm with frame

  • Object history note

    Given by Mr Victor Sassoon. RF: 63/1820

  • Historical context note

    George Keyt (1901–1993) was born in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and educated at Trinity College in Kandy, an elite colonial institution modelled after the British schooling system. As child of Indo-Dutch origins, Keyt practiced drawing, developing a keen interest in art history, Indian and Western literature. The ancient hill capital of Malwatte Vihareand with its Buddhist temples came to exercise a powerful and lasting influence on his artistic and literary output. Increasingly, the artist became greatly drawn towards Sri Lankan Buddhist philosophy, leading him to champion the Buddhist revival cause. This interest spurred the young painter to reject the Western cultural values he had been brought up with and explore both Hindu mythology and Indian literary works.

    By studying Buddhist and Hindu philosophies, Keyt developed closer links to the indigenous culture and Indian way of life. Towards the end of his career, the artist assimilated Western elements into his visual vocabulary such as Picasso’s cubism and Henri Matisse’s painterly flatness to paint Hindu mythological figures. During the 1930s, the artist met the Indian polymath Rabindranath Tagore in Ceylon. This meeting left a lasting impression on the artist who renewed his commitment to revitalize Indian art and culture.

    Keyt is also considered to be one of the most influential Sri Lankan poets.
    His most notable literary contribution was the translation of the Gita Govinda into English and Sinhalese. Moreover the artist illustrated both works with elegant drawings.
    Keyt has been exhibited internationally. His work can be found in various museums and galleries abroad, as well as in private collections around the world.

  • Descriptive line

    Painting, Krishna painting Radha, by George Keyt, oil on canvas, Sri Lanka, 1948

  • Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

    The painting of George Keyt, by Van Gayzel, L.C. Marg, vol. 1.No.2, 1947, p.48.

  • Collection code

    South & South East Asia Collection