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Picture of Rudi von Leyden’ s Bust by Sadanand K. Bakre

  • The picture of the previously lost and recently located sculpture by Sadanand K. Bakre reflects the relationship between the artist Bakre and the art critic Rudi von Leyden.
  • Photograph
  • Picture of Rudi von Leyden’ s Bust by Sadanand K. Bakre

    Word Count: 11

  • Rudolf von Leyden
  • 1949
  • 1950
  • Greetings Card: Photograph on Paper
    Sculpture: Clay/Plaster 1949; Bronze 1950

  • Jaiji Mansion, Merewether Road, Colaba, Bombay (now Mumbai).

  • Mumbai (IN)
  • The picture of the previously lost and recently located sculpture by Sadanand K. Bakre reflects the relationship between the artist Bakre and the art critic Rudi von Leyden.

    Word Count: 28

  • “With thinker’s frown the wrinkled brow
    harbours but thought elect,
    the tired head seeks rest, and how
    the scalp receding heightens the effect.

    Not cast in bronze, claiming cerulean fame,
    not carved in stone posterity to master –
    his friends themselves will hestitate to name
    a thing revealed. It´s only clay and plaster.” (Leyden, card)

    In 1949, Rudi von Leyden printed this poem on a personal greetings card that featured a photograph of a bust of himself, the Head by S.K. Bakre. To convey his personal good wishes he had chosen a sculpture in the making, of clay and plaster, a rough sculpture, an unbaked clay model instead of a bronze or stone version.
    In July 1949, the first exhibition of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) opened in the salon of the Bombay Art Society. Leyden was there and wrote one of his acclaimed reviews. He had followed the six young featured artists over the years, cycling to the openings of their exhibitions and back to The Times of India to have his critique printed in the next day’s issue. Leyden’s consistency in reporting and reviewing generated a historical momentum for the young artists. He reminded his readers “that those who have followed the works of these artists over the past years would know of the struggle, the experiments, the trials that lie behind the considerable achievement which this exhibition represented.” (Leyden 1949, 8). And he warned them, “Those who go to exhibitions to look for pretty pictures will be, on the whole, disappointed. Those, who want painting to be the expression of the deeper emotions and strivings of a generation, will be satisfied with the progressive offering of these artists” (ibid).
    Born into a business family in Baroda, sculptor and painter Bakre attended the Sir J.J. School of Arts in Bombay, obtaining a degree in sculpture in 1944. In protest against the election committee of the Bombay Art Society, he founded the Progressive Artists’ Group together with K.H. Ara, H.A. Gade, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza and M.F. Husain in December 1947, to rebel against conventions, traditions and formalities in art. Also as an artist, Bakre was a rebel, always on the lookout for new materials, methods, forms of expression and innovative sculpting techniques. Over the years his development as a painter and sculptor followed a path from academic realism to abstraction. Of his exhibits at the 1949 exhibition, Leyden wrote: “Sculptor Bakre also joins in the quest for expression through formal values. His small pieces of sculpture in plaster and wood are most successful and his portrait of a high-minded journalist troubled with wicked thoughts is good in its summary rendering. How much more true is such portrait than the ‘life like’ likeness of the commercial bust maker.”
    Is Leyden writing about the bust of himself? Or the “Portrait of T.D.”? About which the art critic Chatterjee commented, “this is a very courageously executed head, with a good deal of simplicity and directness, which indicate his considerable knowledge of form and technical ability” (Chatterji 1949, 10). Among the busts Bakre carved were those of several prominent members of the Bombay art community: such as the plaster bust of philanthropist and industrialist Sir Cowasji Jehangir, founder of the Jehangir Art Gallery; the bust of his PAG art comrade Ara; and the bust of Wayne Hartwell, who was with the United States Information Service in Bombay at the time and had offered Bakre a place to live and work in his own apartment. Bakre symbolically called Hartwell’s bust The Consulate (see Ganguly n.d. for photo of bust).
    The greetings card simply refers to the bust of Leyden as Head and the later bronze sculpture in the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) also bears the name Head Study. The NGMA collection does not list any Bakre artwork on its online registry, nor has it responded to requests over the years. Fortunately, an art lover documented his walk through the gallery in 2018 and posted the photos on his online blog (Bhatia 2018).
    How did the sculpture get to Delhi? In the 1950s, the state art institutions were centralised in Delhi. Leyden was a member of the selection and evaluation committee for the First National Art Exhibition, which took place in Delhi in 1955 and from which the NGMA emerged. However, we do not know who sold or donated to the museum the prestigious bronze sculpture made in 1950.
    All we know is that Leyden considered the plaster/clay model of Bakre’s bust to be valuable, the raw model that may have been a sculpture for making a bronze, since the plaster/clay model was lost. Leyden also considered valuable the young searching artists who experimented with forms, methods, materials, techniques and forms of expression. The advertising specialist Leyden put the photo of Bakre’s bust in his shop window: his personal greetings card, which he sent to all his friends, business partners and relatives to introduce the young artist to the world.

    Leyden confronted young local artists with modernist movements in Europe and America and introduced them to global art developments in innumerable informal meetings. In this he joined forces with other emigrants such as Walter and Käthe Langhammer, Emanuel Schlesinger, Charles Petras, Hermann Goetz and other art lovers in exile who acted like “tutors” (Bhagwat/Parimoo) to these artists in Bombay. They challenged the young artists and at the same time offered space for reflection, criticism, exhibition, education and self-development in a non-hierarchical way.
    In 1951 Leyden ended his review of Bakre’s exhibitions of plastic works with the following words: “The diversity of Mr. Bakre’s work indicates that he is not yet mature, that he has not yet found the mould in which to cast his best and truly personal creations. But he has accumulated a rich hoard of plastic ideas and knowledge that will stand him in good stead when he does find himself.” (Leyden 1951, 3). With respectful criticism, Leyden encouraged Bakre’s talent; he aligned the young artist to international developments. In the same year Bakre emigrated to London.

    Word Count: 1010

  • Bakre’s clay bust featured on Leyden’s greetings card, 1949 (© Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes. All Rights Reserved).
  • Press clipping with historic photo of young Bakre working on the clay bust while Leyden sits as a model, late 1940s (Maddox, Georgina. “In Retrospect.” Indian Express, 8 November 2002, p. 8. © Indian Express. Reprinted in Singh 2013, 276; Image courtesy: Delhi Art Gallery).
    Press clipping from a Marathi Newspaper showing Bakre’s bust of Leyden, 1997 (Reprinted in Singh 2013, 276; Image courtesy: Delhi Art Gallery).
    S.K. Bakre, Head, 1950, Bronze. Exhibited at the National Gallery of Modern Art, 2018 (© Creative Commons, Photo: Ashok Bhatia 2018).
  • Bhagwat, Nalini. “Life and Art of Sadanand Bakre. Feature.” art etc. news & views, January 2012, Accessed 31 March 2021.

    Bhagwat, Nalini, and Ratan Parimoo. “Progressive Artists Group of Bombay: An Overview. The Spirit of Late 1940s and Early 1950s.” art etc. news & views, January 2012, Accessed 31 March 2021.

    Bhatia, Ashok. “A walk through the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, India: Part 3 of 3.” 10 May 2018, ASHOKBHATIA: Of Management, Wodehouse, Movies and things in general!, Accessed 5 April 2021.

    Chatterji, R. “Two Art Exhibitions in Bombay.” The Times of India, 10 July 1949, p. 10.

    Continuum: Progressive Artists’ Group, edited by Kishore Singh, exh. cat. Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2011.

    Franz, Margit. “Exile meets Avantgarde: ExilantInnen-Kunstnetzwerke in Bombay.” Going East – Going South. Österreichisches Exil in Asien und Afrika, edited by Margit Franz and Heimo Halbrainer, CLIO, 2014, pp. 403–431. Academia, Accessed 16 June 2021.

    Franz, Margit. Gateway India. Deutschsprachiges Exil in Indien zwischen britischer Kolonialherrschaft, Maharadschas und Gandhi. CLIO, 2015.

    Franz, Margit. “From Dinner Parties to Galleries: The Langhammer-Leyden-Schlesinger Circle in Bombay – 1940s through the 1950s.” Arrival Cities. Migrating Artists and New Metropolitan Topographies in the 20th Century, edited by Burcu Dogramaci et al., Leuven University Press, 2020, pp. 73–90. Project Muse, doi: 10.1353/book.77990. Accessed 30 March 2021.

    Ganguly, Nanak. “Progressive Art Group Show: The Moderns. Revisited.” art etc. news & views, February 2012, Accessed 5 April 2021.

    [Leyden, Rudolf von]. “Artists’ Exhibition In Bombay ‘DISTINCT GROUP’.” The Times of India, 9 July 1949, p. 8.

    [Leyden, Rudolf von]. “Bombay Sculptorʼs Exhibition. Mr. Sadanand Bakre.” The Times of India, 5 March 1951, p. 3.

    Maddox, Georgina. “In Retrospect.” Indian Express, 8 November 2002, p. 8.

    Mumbai Modern: Progressive Artistsʼ Group 1947–2013, edited by Kishore Singh, Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), New Delhi, 2013.

    Saffronart. “Remembering Sadanand Bakre.” 2008, Saffronart, Accessed 31 March 2021.

    Singh, Kishore. Sadanand Krishnaji Bakre: A Talent Too Many (DAG, Artists’ Series). Delhi Art Gallery, 2011.

    Word Count: 343

  • Private Archive James von Leyden, Lewes.
    Private Archive Margit Franz, Sinabelkirchen.

    Word Count: 11

  • Margit Franz
  • Rudolf von Leyden
  • Bombay
  • No
  • Margit Franz. "Picture of Rudi von Leyden’ s Bust by Sadanand K. Bakre." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Rudolf von Leyden
    GeologistAdvertisement SpecialistJournalistArt CriticArt CollectorCartoonist

    The advertisement expert, Rudolf von Leyden, became a major art critic and art historian in Bombay in the 1940s, advocating an urgent need for modernism in art in post-colonial India.

    Word Count: 30

    Emanuel Schlesinger
    Factory OwnerTechnical DirectorArt CollectorArt Critic

    The art collector Schlesinger provided primarily financial aid by creating working opportunities for young artists in post-independence Bombay, and initiated the corporate culture of buying art.

    Word Count: 26

    Charles Petras
    JournalistDirectorLanguage TeacherWriterTheatre MakerArt ManagerTranslator

    Charles Petras was the founder and director of the international cultural centre Institute of Foreign Languages, an avant-garde theatre director and a very active promoter of international understanding and world peace.

    Word Count: 31

    Bombay Art Society

    One of the oldest art societies in India founded by colonial rulers, Bombay Art Society showcased art students and professional artists from all over India, including the Progressive Artists of Bombay.

    Word Count: 31

    Jehangir Art Gallery
    Art GalleryAuditorium HallLibrary

    Efforts to create spaces for the democratic presentation, discussion and reflection of art in Bombay after independence led to the establishment of the Jehangir Art Gallery in 1952.

    Word Count: 27

    Iconic Photo of the Progressive Artists’ Group and Their Associates

    There are two versions of the PAG photo at the opening of M.F. Husain's first solo exhibition in 1950 (published in 1996 and 2003) and two narratives about the opening.

    Word Count: 28

    Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer

    The painter Walter Langhammer and his wife Käthe built an informal infrastructure to promote local avant-garde artists and regularly invited them to Open Studio Evenings at their studio.

    Word Count: 29