Krishen Khanna Archives

31st August 1980

. . . Two days ago I finished the ms for the book and catalogue I am doing for the V&A. That’s why I have not written earlier, just couldn’t stop the work in its last run. It’s just like you in your work, when you are at it and in it nobody and nothing can stop you. I used to wake up in the mornings thinking about what had to be written that day. I was moved by what you write about the early days of struggle and how easily critics do away with one’s efforts. I talked a lot with Kate Langhammer in London and then when she came here for a short holiday (she is expected in two days again!) and she told me how much she and Walter really cared for the artists, not so much in wanting to teach and influence them but in telling them about what it means being an artist, what work means and the importance of the craft as such which many thought unnecessary. We also talked about Walter and his limitations of which Kate is quite conscious. Walter was really two persons in one, a very courageous and honest, up right man who loved his art and was a painter in his eye, his temperament but not his guts. His political ideas were always honest and brave but only Kate stuck her neck out before and during the early Nazi days. Walter was, in his second personality, frightened and security minded. He wanted the cheque to come in every month and wanted to live without risks. That meant compromises and he finally perished over these compromises which killed his art. Tragic really, and he had paint coming out of his fingers when he wanted. My days as art critic of the Times were really the most important for me in all my life in India. Not only because the friendships I made which lasted a lifetime, but because I had to come to terms with myself, in my attitudes and opinions and in my endeavour to ‘cut out the cackle’. When words begin to count, not in numbers and in great sound, but in meaning, than you know you have got somewhere. I am so very happy about what you write about your work and what it means to you. Life is in the doing. I am satisfied myself that India gave me this very minor but for me important passion of doing the first complete survey of ganjifa. It is a facet of Indian life which people like to sweep under the carpet because gambling is ‘not nice’. But that artists made the most wonderful small masterpieces for this ‘vice’ nobody wants to see. I am happy I have got all on paper now. . .

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