Vasudeo H Pandya
Sale: 1 November Dhanteras to 3 November Diwali from 10 am to 8 pm.
Exhibition on until Sunday 10 November at the First Hall , Clark House.
Vasudeo H Pandya, 'Ras Kreeda', 1925.
Vasudeo Hiralal Pandya was born in 1896 in the town of Lunawada in Gujarat. After his matriculation he became a teacher in the local village school. He later moved to Bombay where he lived in a chawl in the district of Tardeo. He met with a European man, who was impressed with his handwriting and recruited Pandya as a document copier in his company. Pandya's boss travelled often to Europe, 22 times often coming back to tell him stories of his travels by ship. Pandya had been drawing by then as a hobby. He was an Amateur painter and his first work was in oil, a standing portrait of the four handed Hindu deity, Shree Vishnu, the preserver of in the Hindu Trinity of Gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. He lived at the Jariwalla chawl on Arthur Road, Tardeo, here he met a Parsi gentleman called Mr.Wadia, who upon seeing this painting encouraged him to pursue his hobby. He convinced him to travel to Germany and have his paintings printed. Artists such as Raja Ravi Varma had already travelled to Germany to print lithographs for calendars using the lithography limestones quarried from the bed of the Rhine riverbed. Thus Sree Vasudeo Picture Company came into existence and it established its practice in the Jariwalla chawl Tardeo.
A hat manufacturer, Anant Shivaji Desai (Topiwala) became his sole agent initially. Desai, had his business at Moti Bazaar, Bombay - 2, where he had already purchased the rights to print lithographs from Raja Ravi Varma at his Malavli studio , Lonavala. Lonavala was situated on the western ghats that surrounded the island of Bombay. A lithography studio had been established with German technicians by Raja Ravi Varma, as the process of lithography needed a cool temperate climate for perfect colour registration of the oleographs. Sree Vishnu, became a popular calendar subjects and more than 800,000 oleographs were sold by Pandya at 20 paise per copy. When no one new of what the black market meant, there was a black market of Pandya's prints.
At the European firm where Pandya worked, the goods often traded came wrapped in prints of the Renaissance artists. These prints fascinated Pandya and he began to adopt the perspective and use of colour inspired from these paintings. These prints where more or less the medium from where he got his inspiration. 18 or 20 of his paintings were then sent to Germany which were then printed as Oleographs. Ras Kreeda, Sree Ram Vanvas, Yamuna Vihar and Rang Panchami were works that were printed in Germany. The printing press was in Heidelberg. During World War II this press was bombarded by the Nazis. All his painting were lost for ever. They were the last works he ever printed. His business collapsed over night. He by then had sold 800,000 Vishnus and about 200,000 editions of the other prints ( around 20). The proceeds of this money was invested in a palatial house in Ahmedabad, in a place called Gotin-Sheri Khadia. It was built in teak brought from Burma, which Pandya designed and monogramed, soon it became an important building in Ahmedabad known for its architecture.
Pandya was married to Kamla at 13. She was from Deogad Baria. 5 of his 7 children survived into adulthood. After the Worl War II when his business of lithos collapsed Pandya was forced to sell his house for Rs.65,000 and shift to a house at Rs35 per month at No.10 Ashwin Society, Ellis Bridge, Ahmedabad 7. He had realised by then than not being a graduate dependence on a business was precarious. The money garnered from the sale was used towards the education of the children. His children grew up to be textile engineers, doctors and electrical engineers.
Pandya lived a life of relative financial hardship after that selling paintings for small sums of Rs 200 to 250 each. He worked on the balcony of his rented home working each day for 8 hours. Ahmedabad summers often got to 45 degrees centigrade, Pandya painted with a wet towel left on his head to keep afloat in the heat. He used special 10 X grade lenses to magnify the details of the paintings like other miniature painters, and fine brushes of 0 points to paint the hair of the Gods and Goddesses. Inspite of his failures his zeal to paint was his zenith. Each day he would ask his children to bring orders for commissions, so that he could work. His sons opened the Tasveer Studio in Bombay and the Kumar Studio in Ahmedabad. Later in life, he was commissioned by the Swami Narayan Temples around the world to come paint murals, specially South Africa and England. He saw it as a service he had to render like his great grand aunt Gangama who carried Swaminarayan's stove on her head from which he cooked his meals as he wandered around Gujarat. He died in the 1970s relatively forgotten.
- Text by Late Professor Rooshikumar Pandya
Rooshikumar Pandya was a musician and a sitar player and one India's first hypnotherapists. He was the second husband of the sitar maestro Annapurna Devi, and shifted to India from Canada to work as a motivational speaker when he married Annapurna. This April, he visited Clark House to collect a few works of his father's prints that were part of the Focus Photography Festival. Not muc had been written on Vasudeo Hiralal Pandya and this is a text he wrote a few days before he died in his sleep. He was the youngest son Vasudeo H Pandya.
Sales to Rooshikumar helped us with crucial interventions with artists in Stuttgart, Paris and Venice. This exhibition of his father's work is to fund our programming in the coming months. It begins on the day of Dhanteras, and will continue through the Diwali holidays ending next Sunday. Oleographs of artists such as Raja Ravi Varma, Narrotam Narain, C Kondiahraju, and PS Ramchandra Rao will also be on sale.
Vasudeo Hiralal Pandya, 'Rang Panchami, 1936
Clark House Initiative is a curatorial collaborative and a union of artists based in Bombay.
Address: c/o RBT Group, Ground Floor, Clark House, 8 Nathalal Parekh Marg (Old Wodehouse Road),
Bombay 400039. Opposite Sahakari Bhandar and Regal Cinema, next to Woodside Inn.