Modern and Contemporary Art from India
February 25, 2011 through September 4, 2011, San Jose Museum of Art
UNTITLED from the “Bird, Mountain, and Tree” series, ca. 1970s
Oil on canvas
36 ½ x 50 ½ inches
Private collection

Jagdish Swaminathan
Born 1928, Simla, Himachal Pradesh, India
Died 1994, New Delhi
Poet, painter, and political activist Jagdish Swaminathan led the creation in 1962 of Group 1890 (named after the street number of the house where they met). This group of twelve artists was dedicated to developing  an intrinsically Indian visual aesthetic. The artists challenged the assimilation of Western modernism and endeavored to “see phenomena in their virginal states.” 1

Swaminathan devoted nearly two decades to the “Bird, Mountain, and Tree” series, which features birds, plants, and trees floating in expanses of pure color. In this painting, a red bird with a kite like tail glides above trees; it evokes a magical realm. Swaminathan emulated the vibrant colors and two-dimensional space of Indian miniature painting and asserted that these concepts would provide a basis for a new art for India.

1Jagdish Swaminathan, quoted in Yashodhara Dalmia, ed. Indian Contemporary Art: Post Independence (New Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 1997), p. 298.