Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde, born in 1924 in Nagpur, Maharashtra to Goan parents, was regarded as one of India’s foremost abstract painters. He was an artist of singular stature and was known to fellow artists and intellectuals as well as to later generations of students and admirers, as a man of uncompromising integrity of spirit and purpose. A man who never addresses the camera, Gaitonde’s stringent attachment to the codes of painting and the ethics of being a painter distinguished his aesthetic worldview. Short, stocky, self-critical, and confident, Gaitonde scorned sentimentality in his biography and his artistic practice. He was a man of few words and an avid admirer of Indian and Western classical music, poetry, cinema, literature, and theater who dedicated his life to painting. He cut ties with his immediate family early on and was briefly associated with the Progressive Artist’s Group. Although the world’s come to regard Gaitonde as a recluse — one should rather say that he tended toward solitude — this isolation was by no means entirely self-imposed, and as such, Ram Kumar who had been a very dear friend to him recalls this once-spirited and gregarious artist as suffering from a sense of loneliness in his later years. Kumar states, “After moving to Delhi [in the early 1970s] Gaitonde missed the sea… About fifteen years before his death, he said that this was going to be his last painting. That he had said whatever he wanted to say in painting, and that if he continued to paint, he would be repeating himself, which he didn’t want to do. Gaitonde’s consistently nonrepresentational works from 1959 onward resist any intrinsic meaning or description and must be dealt with on their own uncompromised terms.
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