Krishen Khanna Archives

Ram Kumar to Krishen Khanna

To: Krishen Khanna, c/o Grindlays National Bank Ltd., Kanpur

From: Ram Kumar, Shanktiniketan, Dalhousie

Dated: 11th June 1960

Dear Krishen,

. . . I was not annoyed with **’s review. We know who these people are and how much depth they have in their understanding of Plastic arts. Sometimes I feel disgusted with the art world as a whole and the only consolation is to retire move and move in one’s own world of creative activity. I am hurt only when I have to deal with people for the sake of my material existence. In this regard I envy you sometimes. And I am not decided in my own mind, how far I could go to fulfil these commitments. This has become more acute with opening of new art galleries and the rumours of still some more coming up.

. . . I had been doing in oils my impressions of Varanasi. I wonder, how long shall I continue them.

. . . I got a letter from Husain from Rome. I wonder where he is now. His show in Frankfurt opens on 4 July. Richard is planning to start a Gallery in Delhi. He will write to you soon. I wonder, what will be your response. Kumar is planning a few projects.

. . . I am very happy to know that you are going ahead with your work. How is your plan for your show in Leister Gallery?

The lack of any means of communications among artist friends is another hurdle in having an understanding of each other and each other’s works.

To: Krishen Khanna, National Grindlays Bank, Kanpur (U.P.)

From: Ram Kumar, Shantiniketan, Dalhousie

Dated: 29th August 1960

. . . Last three months in Dalhousie have been rather awarding for many things. Sometimes time seems to have a stop in this quiet, tranquil town when I paused and looked behind the tracks passed in various movements of action and stagnation - life and death. However, the output has been satisfying to some extent - specially in the field of writing. I wrote four short stories. Krish, you would hate some of my work which I write - but I love it - with passion and gratitude. Did about 12 paintings - some not bad.

. . . Sometimes I shudder with the idea of life in Delhi which I will renew again where I had left it three months ago. I think, it does not suit me and retirement in a small obscure place will do me good. But the question is of existence. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, National and Grindlays Bank Ltd., Kanpur

From: Ram Kumar, 14 A/20 W.E.A., New Delhi - 5

Dated: 5th January 1961

. . . I think that this winter we should have an independent group exhibition of 5 or 6 painters. For example, Husain, you, Gaitonde and myself and if possible Akbar and Raza. It should not be sponsored or financed by any one.

. . . Some small group activity from time to time is very useful, otherwise we shall become isolated islands. Let me know your opinion. Maqbool was very enthusiastic about this idea and he has asked me write to you about it. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, National and Grindlays Bank Ltd., Kanpur

From: Ram Kumar 14 A/20 W.E.A., New Delhi - 5

Dated: 22nd May 1961

. . . I reserve the celebration for some future date and we would do it in a grand way (may be French). I realise, how free you would be feeling now when a huge load is off your head. It was not easy Krishan to leave such a well paid job after 13 years and anyone would think twice before taking a decision.

. . . So you are one of us now though you had been one of us inspite of your job. But now you will be physically with us and we shall plan a big way. Delhi has not been till now a centre of art as Bombay is and your presence here will be much more useful.

. . . You may be sorry (or glad) to know that I have been elected as a member of the general council of the Lalit K. Akadami as one of the nine eminent artists. I had six other competitors.

I am glad to know that Husain has fixed up a show for us in Tokyo. I did not know about it as Maqbool’s letter came a week after his arrival in Tokyo. But let us seriously try Air India.

I went to Bombay last month for 10 days to attend the opening of Husain’s centre where his paintings will be on permanent display. I met Bal & Gaitonde. Had long chats with Bal.

. . . Kumar is opening a branch in ‘Ashoka Hotel’. He does not seem to have faired well in Calcutta & ‘Kunika’ here seems to be a challenge to his monopoly. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, c/o Mr. Arthur L. Jacobs, 45, Gramercy Park North, New York 10, NY

From: Ram Kumar, 14 A/20 W.E.A, New Delhi - 5

Dated: 19th February 1963

. . . Here it is utter isolation even in Delhi and the urge to communicate has to be stifled down. Friends from Bombay have not been her for some time and I feel quite lonely.

. . . I am having a show in Kunika which will close down tomorrow. I tell you the story of Morris Graves and how he opened my show. One day he just came to Kunika when some show was on. In the small adjacent room where some other paintings (not a part of the show) are hung, he saw one of my small red paintings (which you had liked and you had taken it to your studio to show it to some one) which he liked and bought and asked Richard if he had any other paintings of mine. He bought one more and while signing the cheque Richard discovered his name. He was staying in India on his own and did not want to meet any Art officials or artists even. Gradually Richard met him often and some of us too met him. Later on Richard one day asked him whether he would like to open my show since he liked my works. He agreed though he remarked that he had not attended even his openings. He is one of the most profound and deep persons I have met and I have been terribly impressed by his talks.

. . . Yes, there was an immediate impact on art activities after national emergency was declared. Hotels were empty. Foreign visitors who usually come these months cancelled their visit. The Govt. declared cuts in every budget. And we visualised that it will effect the sale of pictures. I enquired from Kumar and Kunika too as their sales would show some results. There were less sales, no doubt. But now it has all cleared up. Though there is still emergency but people are not hysterical, nor the Govt. The Govt. has cut down some of their purchase of pictures if they had any.

. . . Gallery 63 show - we had hardly any news. There was quite a lot of confusion. My maximum prices were Rs. 2500 & minimum 300/- but I understand, they had increased the prices. Husain’s and Gai’s prices were between 3 to 5 thousand and I think, they were quite reasonable but the Gallery instead of adding 33% as their commission increased in some cases by 100%. Anyhow, it’s over now and in future we must be more cautious rather than accept any proposal from any source. Here we have an artist and critic called Roy Craven who is on Full bright scholarship. He is organising another exhibition of 30 Indian paintings by 10 artists in some museums of various states in U.S.A. Asia Foundation is financing the transport.

I have no news of Husian’s show in Bombay. We are expecting him in Delhi any day now. There are lots of things happening in India in the Art World which is very inspiring - some are right and some are not but it’s not a dead landscape. Bombay had a very successful auction of pictures for Emergency Funds. Some film stars like Dilip Kumar turned up and bought a few canvases.

. . . Prices of paintings have sore up. In my show I sold pictures for Rs. 1200/- each. Gaitonde too has some sales and at quite high prices. Leven Bros. recently bought paintings worth 25000/- for their office walls. Gradually the new trends are being recognised so lots of stray and isolated activities but not proper chanelised which can be done only by the Akademi but Akademi has its own handicaps. It’s very important that we have a united voice and assert our voices. Surprisingly no new art gallery has emerged. Rupa in Bombay is closing down and Kumar is intending to open a branch there.

I am glad to be free from the contract of Kumar and I think, I can pull on independently. Kumar is concentrating on Santosh and Shanti Dave. Husain too has terminated his contract with him. But we do need a gallery so that we could concentrate on our work. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, c/o The American University, College of Arts and Sciences, Mass and Nebraska Avenues, Washington DC, U.S.A

From: Ram Kumar, Nishat Bagh, Srinagar, Kashmir

Dated: 3rd October 1963

. . . When I was in Delhi, I had a long talk with Kumar and he showed me the contract which you had signed. I have entered into a limited contract, e.g., one painting a month for Rs. 450/-. In no bindings of course I shall give him paintings on consignment and may be a show too. Kunika seems to be very indifferent and I have no hopes. Recently another gallery opened in Triveni. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

From: Ram Kumar, 14 A/20, W.E.A, New Delhi - 5

Dated: 2nd June 1966

. . . My mind full of memories of Simla and lovely days spent there and here, it is like a living furnace, I find myself incapable of doing anything else except to brood whole of the day. I just sit, talk to Tulu and sleep, and doze till Vimla returns back from her work. Thank God, there is no one in the house - my mother too left for Secundrabad - so I have whole of this house and Delhi heat and my memories to live by. I had no desire to go to my studio and the very idea is frightening. I wonder, for how long I would continue to live with myself. Introvert as I am (according to Renu), I think, I could continue like this for ever.

During whole of the journey in the bus from Simla to Delhi I kept on sleeping, sometimes at a halt going to some café without knowing the name of the place. How wonderful to be in a city without knowing its name.

. . . When are you coming here? Arriving here I found a telegram from Bal & Gai saying the they are dying to see me and if I do not come to Bombay, they will die. Very sweet of them…

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

Dated: June 1966

. . . It is surprising that everyone except you in the Art and literary world is in town and you could see several groups scattered in the coffee house lawns and in Connaught Place.

. . . I have not done any work. This lethargy lingers on and I am unable to get rid of it. I am really glad to know that you have started your work and also sold a painting even in a place like Simla. We in Delhi are unable to find a client.

. . . George Butcher is still here. He met Tyeb and told him in what a soup he was. Kekoo left Delhi. I did not see him much and I have lost interest in his schemes of ‘projecting the image of India abroad’. Let him do so if he can. Such plans exasperate me. . . .

To: Krishnen Khanna, c/o Mr. Anthony Lousada, “The Tides”, Chiswick Mall, London W.4

From: Ram Kumar, 14 A/ 20 W.E.A, New Delhi 5

Dated: 9th September 1968

. . . I am regularly going to my studio but as yet no work. I would start something on similar lines with which I am familiar but I am insisting it as I am afraid to fall in the same rut again by painting pictures which almost fit into the dimensions which I seem to have created for myself. I am in no hurry to paint and so I want to see, how long this struggle would continue. Yes, I have seen Husain a couple of times. I saw a few of his recent pictures and one of them struck me as an unusual sort of picture. He showed me some of Shamshed’s (his son) pictures also which are pretty good, competent and sure. He is having a show this month in Delhi.

. . . I am glad that you have already sold a couple of your paintings. . . . I will be interested to know how it is received in London and how others not known to you react to it though it is always difficult to find out. I hope, it will be a success. How about Lousada selecting one for Tate. He must have seen them in the gallery. . .

To: Krishen Khanna, c/o Anthony Lousada, “The Tides”, Chiswick Male, London, W.4

From: Ram Kumar, 14 A/20 W.E.A., New Delhi - 5

Date not mentioned

. . . I do not know why this utter depression envelops me whenever I come back to Delhi. Maybe, in my heart I hate this town. But which one I love, it’s difficult to say.

. . . Yesterday Ambadas came home and gave a bit of news of Delhi. Swami has shifted to South Ext. and he has invited us this evening where Paz is also coming. But I don’t think, I will go there in this mood. And with these dinners Delhi life will begin once again where I had left it three months ago and this idea is not very pleasant.

. . . I had a couple of meetings with Raza in Paris and one night we had rather a sharp exchange of words. And I tried to elucidate some points. But I feel that no one can change his views about Triennale episode. I like strong and determined point of view but a bit of elasticity is always welcomed.

. . . And how do you feel about the Czech events. Isn’t it terrible. This could have happened when we were there or before Nirmal left. It’s good that he left Prague just in time. My faith in U.S.S.R. is shakened. We still live in the jungle law - might is right - and all high sounding words about literature, art, culture is a façade. We have to assert ourselves. This is the right moment. It is happening all over the world. We have submitted ourselves to be the tools in the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, gallery owners, patrons, publishers etc. What happened in Paris, Berlin, Prague etc. We have to take lessons. . . .

Yours -


To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

Dated: 22nd June 1979

. . . Got your letter just now for which I had to pay 60 paisa as the stamp you had fixed must have got lost.

. . . Travelling loses its charm as we grow old and we prefer to stick to the old familiar surroundings and a fixed routine and of course concentrate on one’s work which is not possible when one is moving around. Once I had argued with Husain that may be, he is trying to fool himself to think that travelling is an impetus for his work. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla, 2

Dated: 4th June 1980

. . . Nothing new in the Art World. It seems to be dead. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

Dated: 4th August 1987

Was wondering, how come this year you forgot your annual card ritual, but then it came and I was happy to find out that you are well and enjoying the monsoons in the mountains - which has almost become a dream now. But I also feel sorry about Davico’s. I think, last time I visited the place was in 1967 when we were there for the seminar. Still there are lots of places with age old memories, fresh in the mind. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

From: Ram Kumar, 18, Bharti Artist Colony, Vikas Marg, Delhi - 92

Dated: 2nd August 1999

Your card was a very pleasant surprise which I was not expecting. Yes, I agree with you that there is hardly any communication among the old friends who had intimately known each other for several decades. This is a sign of age also.

. . . However, we returned back from N.Z. about a month ago and were welcomed with dead phone, dead invertor, power failures and water storage and intense heat and no rains. . . .

Dated: 10th June (year not mentioned)

. . . Delhi being so devoid of friends these days, one can look only for the mail which does not seem to be in good temper in this heat of June.

Yes, my trip on the whole was very exciting which shall remain fresh in my memory for quite some time. Rio and Machu Pichu with all the freshness and full of life and vitality of our times and of the past was an unforgettable experience. There a marth in New York with an apartment in mid Manhattan and Sam Flex next door was so tempting to work that I could not check my temptation. Naturally I limited myself to acrylic but it turned out to be quite a fascinating medium. And then there were friends - very warm and hospitable and willing to help. I had a few trips - to Boston, Potsdam, Montreal etc.

. . . A lecture in the Potsdam University on Contemp. Indian Art was appreciated and I too was quite satisfied as it was the first time that I spoke of Art in public.

Raza was fine. He did not have any hard feelings specially after your visit to Bombay. He liked your article in “Pozra Grah”. He wants to organize a show of Contemp. Indian Art in Paris provided we can cooperate with him. I shall talk to you when we meet. He is working very hard. He hardly moves out of his studio.

. . . Here, in Delhi all seems to be very quiet. Gai is the only friend who is left. He will go to Bombay by the end of this month. With Nirmal and other 2 writers we had a pleasant time in Paris. Once Raza invited all 3 of them and we were together for a couple of hours with Dilip Chitre quoting Sanksrit verses and Raza feels for India and besides doing what he can, he would like to feel in depth, his links with India. . . .

Dated: 15th June (year not mentioned)

. . . Staying in Delhi all by myself in this heat has been a unique experience and I have learnt quite a few things. I am surprised to find out that never for a moment I felt lonely and that has been a very great emotion as who knows, when one is forced to live all by oneself. Yes, I did devote all my time and energy to look for which I had decided to stay here. This too revealed a few facts. One is capable to doing very hard work every day, when one decides to do it - almost 8 to 9 hours without any compulsion or exhaustion. I never felt the heat - 44.5 degrees. . . . Man has tremendous capacity to bear hardships if he has the will power.

. . . Gai came over once or twice and so has been Nirmal’s visits too. Only one evening I went to Swamy and spent 5 hours in his company. We had a heal tete a tete and face a face - all forget and forgive - let us start a few things together - like the magazine or even the Akademi activities. On the whole and very objectively speaking, we should try to thrash out the problems and with a new spirit do a few things collectively.

Once Richard also I met and he too, would like to initiate some dialogues so that other artists could cooperate.

. . . Of course, one has a right to show one’s disagreement with one’s friends’ point of view but human and friendly relations cannot be broken that fast. But some people may feel the other way round. A man should be large hearted and accommodative and not see things just in black and white. Every body has human weaknesses and the so called ‘idealists’ or pure people may behave exactly in the same manner for which they accuse others. But I do not attach more importance to this and you, on the other hand, have a little bit of sentimental attitude towards it.

Dated: 18th June (year not mentioned)

. . . Last evening I went to Gai’s place to see his new paintings - two of them are very exciting. He will go to Bombay next month when he has done some more work, but this visit will be sort of his annual visit and he will come back. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

Dated: 24th June (year not mentioned)

. . . I went to Kumar Gallery in the evening. Tyeb had told me about his frequent meetings with Kumar and that he was in a philosophical and spiritual mood - if he was capable of being in that state - and wondered why he should not close down the gallery.

. . . We talked a lot over some drinks till his younger brother came back from Ashoka with two Americans whom they were taking out for dinner at Inter-Continental. This happens almost every day and this is how paintings are sold.

Today I was surprised to find Nasreen in my studio. I hope you remember her. She is here for a few days and we talked about mutual friends. Unfortunately she could not get married as she had planned and how she is back in India for good. She is the most talented woman artists of our country. I wonder, if you are well acquainted with her work.

. . . It’s good that you wrote to Bal. . . . I also feel that the occasional outbursts of depression are to a great extent due to isolation in which an artist has enclosed himself. I think, we should do something about it. Occasional group shows, paper etc. are really worth trying. We should talk about it when we meet next time. . . .

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

Dated: 28th June (year not mentioned)

. . . Last few days have been just miserable with lot of humidity and no rains. I met Dilu yesterday who had gone to a place near Mussorie for a week. She too needed it after house hunting which she has not been able to fix up as yet. We are staying on in Delhi.

Raza rang up from Gorbio 2 days ago enquiring about Tyeb’s operation and I told him all the details. He will be in Golio for a few months and work as 2 shows are fixed up in Cannes and Paris next year. He may come here in Jan for his book. No news of Husain. Life is the same. ..

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

From: Ram Kumar, Najein, Hazratbal, Srinagar

Dated: 28th June (year not mentioned)

Coming to Srinagar and staying in this house near Nageen is such a contrast from my life in Delhi that sometimes I find it difficult to believe that I am here. The surroundings here are reminiscent of one of Chekhov’s plays where the Russian countryside with its peculiar characters, cherry trees and warm landscape is described.

Nageen lake is at a distance of five minutes walk where we can sit in perfect tranquillity and peace and think and brood with an oblomoiran attitude towards life.

The house has a lovely garden where we spend most of our time sitting under a tree with Mirza Sahib’s three daughters and some students from Palestine and Mirza’s wife getting annoyed as her eldest daughter getting friendly with the Palestine students. It’s all very interesting.

By next season, you should have enough of paintings for a show in Bombay and it may not be a bad idea if you could contact Pundole now. Gai is the only one left in Delhi now but I was glad to find out that he was quite involved in his work and did produce some paintings. He is a remarkable person, having studied very deeply Zen, he has been able to practice it in his daily life. I do not know him very intimately but whenever some new characteristic are revealed during talks, my respect for him becomes more deep.

Delhi will be very quiet now and the atmosphere should be ideal for work and maybe some other activities also provided they do not demand lots of your time and energy.

To: Krishen Khanna, Ravensdale, Simla 2

Dated: 18th September (year not mentioned)

. . . What a luck that you have this beautiful place in Simla. When we can afford to have all the peace we need, we indulge in all sorts of disturbing complications. What tragedy…

We act the same way as we did 30 years ago - shows, sales, auctions, parties etc. . . .

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