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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.
  • Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer

    Word Count: 9

  • Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer
  • Salon
  • 1940
  • 1957
  • 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

  • The couple Käthe Langhammer (1906–1996) and Walter Langhammer (1905–1977) belonged to socialist groups and art circles in Vienna in the late 1920s and 1930s. Käthe’s Jewish origins and their political commitment forced them to leave Austria for Bombay in 1938. Due to contacts with influential and wealthy Parsi circles, Walter Langhammer got a job in the art department of the largest English newspaper in India, The Times of India. He later became its art director and responsible for The Times of India Annual. By winning the Gold Medal of the Bombay Art Society, the highest honour, he made an impressive entry in the Bombay art world in 1939. Walter Langhammer developed his own style; bold colourful strokes of Post-Impressionism / Fauvism, which depicted panoramic landscapes in pure, bright colours, as well as introverted portraits that searched for the personality in depth. His work was characterized by refined drawing skills and a fondness for vivid, brilliant colours. However, his main source of income from the paintings were commissioned portraits of Bombay’s high society and elite Western ex-pats; mainly of their young children. His penchant for caricatures led him to draw political cartoons for The Times of India during the war. Because of his general success, he started his annual one-man shows in the Convocation Hall in 1942. After he won “The Governor of Bombay Prize” (for the best work in oil colours) for the second time in 1943 with his impressive portrait of Rudolf von Leyden The Critic (today at TIFR collection), he stopped competing in the annual exhibitions of the Bombay Art Society but became a very active member in various committees of the society until he left India in 1957.

    Inside and outside this platform, the Langhammers pursued their vision of modern art in India and their belief in the young experimental artists trying to find new forms of expression in a new country. Their enthusiasm and belief infected others like Kekoo Gandhy and other like-minded people. Walter and Käthe Langhammer, Rudolf and Albrecht von Leyden, Emanuel Schlesinger, Homi Bhabha, Mulk Raj Anand, Kekoo Gandhy and other Indians composed an informal group of supporters and admirers of young avant-garde artists, mainly the artists of the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), as well as with other Indian and Western art aficionados. (Since the Langhammers and Rudi von Leyden were socialist, they may have focused on low-income artists like K.H. Ara or M.F. Husain and neglected artists from wealthy families like Jehangir Sabavala or Akbar Padamse.)
    Their network resembled the cosmopolitan atmosphere of post-independence Bombay. At the same time, many elements of public art-promotional infrastructure in India were lacking; such as production rooms, critical reflection and discussion, critical education, showcasing and financial remuneration. The Salon of the Bombay Art Society, founded in 1940, was a small exception and, in addition to experimental, modern exhibitions, also allowed informal meetings, official discussions and talks on these topics and the importance of art in a new, free, decolonized country.
    On the other hand, the “patrons” of the informal network surrounding these young artists were in positions and had the means to intervene in art presentation, art advertising, art criticism and art sales on behalf of their protégés. While Langhammer was some sort of artistic role model for some of them in the beginning, for example for S.H. Raza, K.H. Ara, and Sadanand Bakre, he was an art teacher for many. This, in later years, he expanded to the general public in radio shows, talks, and film screenings.
    “Every Sunday, it was open house at his studio on Nepean Sea Road” (Gandhy 2003), recalled Kekoo Gandhy. The Langhammers ran a salon at their home at Malabar Hill. Here, young artists met, dinner-parties were held, people from different classes, castes, religions and professions mingled, high-society encountered poor artists, art was discussed and analysed and, paintings were displayed and sold.
    On weekdays, Langhammer allowed young artists like Raza to use the studio space for painting; on the weekends it was an open studio in which the works of artists were discussed. Some of these works later appeared in The Times of India publications or, due to corporate networks, in advertisements for companies with a liking for modern art, such as Air India. Some of these companies began acquiring paintings and building up a collection. With the financial support from the steel magnate J.R.D. Tata, Walter Langhammer initiated an artist-in-residence programme in Jamshedpur. His social standing helped promote an open gallery in the form of the Jehangir Art Gallery.
    Käthe Langhammer, who was also called Kathy, Cathy and Kathe by her friends, was the “emotional glue” between them, the caretaker during meetings and the socialite; besides her unacknowledged role as a photographer, an art-critic, an art educator and a manager for modern art exhibitions in the Bombay Art Society Salon together with Kekoo Gandhy. Well into old age however, she was the most political and radical left-wing war refugee in Bombay. She had the highest progressive political socialisation of all of them growing up in one of the leading households in 'Red Vienna' and running an underground art salon with her father and her husband in the era of Austrofascism. This political momentum, and their belief in art as a means for political upheaval, united the Langhammers and the communist student leader Rudi von Leyden ideologically with the young artists of the PAG. However, this conviction was no hindrance to search for financial support from Bombay’s financial elite. Being privileged due to their “white race”, prestigious employment, high social status and the appreciation they received in the art circles, they were able to promote and patronize the young and experimenting penniless artists.
    Kekoo Gandhy, Langhammer’s greatest admirer, advocate and storyteller, once described Walter Langhammer as a “benevolent dictator”, “a man who got his things” (Kekoo in conversation). Walter Langhammer appears to have been a charming, enthusiastic and strong-willed personality at both business and private gatherings. “Walter has the warmth and charm of his native Vienna, and with his wife and talented help-mate, Kathe he created wherever he went an atmosphere best described by the German word gemutlich, a sense of cosiness, ease and congeniality” (Ariel 1957, 8); a colleague of The Times of India, saying goodbye to the Langhammers after 19 years in Bombay. On a personal level, Walter and Käthe could look back on Walter’s brilliant career as Art Director of The Times of India, using his skills as a commercial and advertising artist and achieving great success as a well-paid painter who won several major awards in Bombay’s art society. As a result, they became part of Bombay’s elite and high-level business and arts networks. What was historically important however, was that in the early days of India’s independence, they contributed to a cosmopolitan milieu in Bombay. This allowed new art movements to grow and prosper; especially the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) with its hybrid methods, skills and motives and new approaches as a symbol for the new India.
    Socialized in ‘Red Vienna’, they advocated art as a political instrument and as a means of emancipated self-expression as early as the late 1920s.

    Word Count: 1194

  • Open evening at the Langhammer’s, from left: Walter Langhammer, unknown woman, Kekoo Gandhy, Wayne Hartwell (American cultural affairs diplomat) n.d. (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).
  • Dinner party at the Langhammer’s studio amidst his paintings (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).
    Käthe and Walter Langhammer (far left) attending an Indian dinner, late 1930s/early 1940s (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).
    Opening of the annual Langhammer exhibition by Sir Cowasjee Jehangir in the Convocation Hall, 27 November 1949 (from left: Mr. C.V. Oak, Rani Maharaj Singh, Walter Langhammer, Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, Käthe Langhammer) (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).
    Photography Morning in the Great Mosque in Ajmer (translation by the author) by Käthe Langhammer, Rajasthan, 1940s (© Archive Margit Franz: Langhammer Photo Archive; All Rights Reserved).
    Käthe Langhammer in South India. They toured all of India for The Times of India Annual. Photo by Walter Langhammer (© Archive Margit Franz: Langhammer Photo Archive; All Rights Reserved).
    Invitation card for the Langhammers’ farewell party, April 1957 (© Digital Photo Archive Margit Franz; authorised by the late Kekoo Gandhy; All Rights Reserved).
    Entrance to Langhammer’s residence at 20 Nepean Sea Road (Photo: Margit Franz, 2007; All Rights Reserved).
  • Ariel. “Men, Matters and Memories.” The Times of India, 28 April 1957, p. 8.

    Dalmia, Yashodhara. The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives. Oxford University Press, 2001.

    Franz, Margit. “Transnationale & transkulturelle Ansätze in der Exilforschung am Beispiel der Erforschung einer kunstpolitischen Biographie von Walter Langhammer.” Mapping Contemporary History. Zeitgeschichten im Diskurs, edited by Margit Franz et al., Böhlau, 2008, pp. 243–272. Academia, Accessed 14 March 2021.

    Franz, Margit. “Graz – Wien – Bombay – London: Walter Langhammer, Künstler und Kunstförderer.” Historisches Jahrbuch der Stadt Graz, vol. 40, edited by F. Bouvier, and N. Reisinger, Stadt Graz – Kulturamt, 2010, pp. 253–276. Academia,ünstler_und_Kunstförderer. Accessed 14 March 2021.

    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 (1st ed.). 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.

    Franz, Margit. “Die multiplen Identitäten und Loyalitäten der Käthe Langhammer.” Das Exil von Frauen. Historische Perspektive und Gegenwart (biografiA. Neue Ergebnisse der Frauenbiografieforschung, 26), edited by Ilse Korotin and Ursula Stern, Praesens Verlag, 2020, pp. 148–167.

    Gandhy, Kekoo, “The Beginnings of the Art Movement.” City of Dreams, special issue of, Seminar, no. 539, August 2003, Accessed 21 February 2021.

    Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. “K.H. Ara and the TIFR Art Collection: One fragment of the story of the Institute’s Art Collection with a focus on one of the founder members of the Progressive Artists’ Group – Krishnaji Howlaji Ara.” Google Arts & Culture, Accessed 15 April 2021.

    Word Count: 349

  • Private Archive Margit Franz, Sinabelkirchen:
    Audio file: Kekoo Gandhy in conversation with Khorshed Gandhy, Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy and son of Roger van Damme. Mumbai, n.d. (kindly provided by Rashna Imhasly-Gandhy; private archive Margit Franz: digital audio material and transcript by Margit Franz);
    Archival records from personal interviews between the author and Khorshed and Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai, 30 April to 3 May 2003; 18 to 22 January 2004; 26 April to 12 May 2007; 13 to 15 October 2008; 24 October 2010;
    Archival records from a personal interview between Yashodhara Dalmia and Maseeh Rahman and Käthe Langhammer, London, August 1993 (kindly provided by Yashodhara Dalmia; private archive Margit Franz: digital audio material and transcript by Margit Franz);
    Archival records from personal interviews between the author and S.H. Raza, Paris, 3 to 4 July 2006; and Gorbio, 18 August 2010.

    Private Archive of late Khorshed & Kekoo Gandhy, Mumbai.

    Bombay Art Society exhibition catalogues from 1938 till 1960.

    Times of India Archive via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Accessed 18 April 2021.

    Walter Langhammer, The Critic, 1943, (© TIFR; Mumbai,

    Word Count: 166

  • Margit Franz
  • Homi J. Bhabha, Mulk Raj Anand, K.H. Hebbar, M.F. Husain, Käthe Langhammer, Walter Langhammer, Kekoo Gandhy, Rudolf von Leyden, Albrecht von Leyden.

    Word Count: 25

  • 20, Nepean Sea Road, Bombay (now 20, Nepeansea Rd, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai) (studio, 1940/41–1957).

  • Bombay
  • No
  • Margit Franz. "Open Studio Evenings by Käthe and Walter Langhammer." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Mulk Raj Anand
    WriterPhilosopherArt PatronCultural Critic

    As a global socialist and modernist, Mulk Raj Anand sought and shaped opportunities for intellectual exchanges between Asia and Europe.

    Word Count: 20

    Kekoo Minochair Gandhy
    Frame Shop OwnerGalleristArt Collector

    Starting from a cosmopolitan milieu for young local artists, Kekoo and his wife Khorshed Gandhy developed a business model that turned the frame shop into Gallery Chemould.

    Word Count: 27

    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

    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

    Schimmel’s Wedding Film 1948

    The film shows Schimmel’s Jewish wedding ceremony at the prestigious Glamis Villa, followed by lunch at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Among the guests were Käthe and Walter Langhammer.

    Word Count: 30

    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.

    Word Count: 28

    One Man exhibition and subsequent trial, Akbar Padamsee
    Court Case

    Akbar Padamsee’s solo exhibition in Bombay in 1954 was overshadowed by his arrest on charge of displaying obscene pictures. The subsequent court case drew support from across the art world.

    Word Count: 30

    The Feldberg Art Collection. A Series of Three Exhibitions of European Artworks collected by the Feldberg Family

    In 1950 the Institute of Foreign Languages organised three exhibitions of paintings from the collection of the exiled Jewish manufacturer Siegbert Feldberg and his wife Hildegard from Stettin.

    Word Count: 27

    GalleryFrame Shop

    Chemould’s history stretches from its beginnings as a manufacturer of chemical mouldings and frames in 1941 over to a hub for art circulation displaying a variety of artists in Bombay.

    Word Count: 30

    University / Higher Education Institute / Research Institute

    The TIFR is one of India’s premier scientific institutions. Inside its buildings, scientists ponder over path-breaking ideas. Also, within its hallowed walls is a fine collection of modern Indian art.

    Word Count: 31

    Institute of Foreign Languages
    Language SchoolExhibition SpaceLibraryTheatre

    With its wide range of cultural activities, the Institute of Foreign Languages − founded in 1946 by the Viennese emigrant Charles Petras − became a glocal contact zone in Bombay.

    Word Count: 27

    Air India

    Air India was one of the largest art collectors in Bombay. Indian art was used as branding for Air India in international competition right from the start.

    Word Count: 27

    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

    Breach Candy Club

    The Breach Candy Club, restricted to “Europeans”, was a favourite spot for the exiled financial elite with its saltwater pool shaped like the map of British India and sea view.

    Word Count: 30

    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

    Homi Jehangir Bhabha

    Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a world class scientist, institution builder, an artist and art connoisseur. His vision for growth of science and art has had significant impact in post-colonial India.

    Word Count: 30

    The Leydens: Sculpture, Paintings, Cartoons

    In 1948 Albrecht and Rudi von Leyden sold their personal works of art in order to set up an “Artists' Aid Fund”, which became an institution in the following years.

    Word Count: 29