A mention of cartoonist and illustrator RK Laxman immediately conjures neat scribbles that has given the country one of its most lasting icons — the Common Man. He is ubiquitous — he’s in your morning newspaper, mute but observant of the state of affairs of the country, and his effigy gazes into the sea at Worli seaface. However, if you speak to Nina Rege, assistant director and curator at the Nehru Centre Art Gallery, she’d ask you to look beyond the Common Man when you’re thinking of Laxman. “There is so much more to the man — few people have seen his oil paintings, water colours, sketches and caricatures. They speak volubly of his artistic journey. For instance, the artist is very fond of crows — who ever knew that!” explains Rege.
Nine months ago, Rege decided to host an RK Laxman retrospective at the gallery, called Indian Master’s Retrospective, which has more than 200 works by the artist. Since two decades, Rege has been curating similar retrospectives of artists such as Gopalrao Deuskar, Vinayakrao Karmarkar and Baburao Painter, but says gathering works of a living artist has been a delight in its own. To curate this exhibition, Rege contacted Laxman’s daughter-in-law and other collectors who have bought Laxman’s works over the years. “What makes this retrospective significant is the fact that 95 per cent of the prints are originals.
People were happy to let us borrow their Laxman collections. The Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi has 50 caricatures by Laxman made in the 1950s — including those of Bismillah Khan, MS Subbulakshmi and Indira Gandhi. They eagerly gave us 25 of those for this exhibition,” says Rege.
Rege hopes that the three-week-long exhibition exposes art students and enthusiasts to the genius of Laxman. “Art students and artists from Goa, Gujarat and various districts of Maharashtra have come for these retrospectives in the past. I hope they take away as much joy as I had while collecting Laxman’s works,” smiles Rege.
When: Ongoing, till January 5, 2014, 11 am to 7 pm
Where: Nehru Centre Art Gallery, Nehru Centre, Worli