Every year on Diwali, a popular painting by S.L Haldankar, “Glow of Hope” does the rounds on social media. The watercolour painting is one of Haldankar’s most famous and recognizable works and features his young daughter. His daughter, wearing a saree poses with a lamp, gracefully protecting its flame. Her face, illuminated by the lamp’s glow and the light radiating through her fingers makes the portrait one of the finest examples of Haldankar’s artistic genius. The painting created in the 1920s, has captivated art lovers for years and is undoubtedly one of his most enduring works.
However, there are other paintings by S.L Haldankar (at museums in India) that are worth celebrating. In the early 1900s, Haldankar studied at the J.J School of Art under the tutelage of artists like M.V Dhurandhar , A.X Trindade & Cecil Burns, emerging as one of the most inventive portrait and landscape painters of the time.
Both Watercolour and Oil as mediums have their limitations. But Haldankar skilfully employed the mediums and with his keen observation created works that evoked depth and texture. He became known for his portraits, receiving commissions from industrialists, politicians and royalty.
Here are 7 more paintings by S.L Haldankar that capture his incredible skill:
Niranjani (watercolour) in the collection of Central Museum Nagpur
Just as in Glow of Hope, notice how the subject’s face is delicately lit from a lower angle. This was a step away from the existing trend of the time and added a dramatic effect to the portrait. You will also notice the light emanating from between the fingers – something that had not been shown in Indian painting before.
Untitled, 1931 (watercolour) in the collection of Museum of Goa
In this stunning portrait, notice Haldankar’s brush strokes and the layers of colour. His subtle use of light and colour to create a detailed facial expression with texture and tone is fascinating to any viewer.
The Mahomaden Pilgrim, 1923 (Oil on Canvas) in the collection of CSMVS Mumbai
This portrait, exhibited at the Bombay Art Society exhibition in 1925, won Haldankar a gold medal. While the painting keeps with the trend of the time – of showing light on the subject’s face from the side – it is the details of the drapes of the shawl, the bundle, the beard (and hands!) that adds character and offers the viewers an intimate introduction to the pilgrim. It also reveals Haldankar’s meticulous observation skills. If you find yourself in Mumbai, we highly recommend seeing this painting at CSMVS in person.
Untitled 1930’s (watercolour) in the collection of DAG
Early Morning at Chowpatty, 1956 in the collection of DAG
This painting, capturing the early hours of the morning doesn’t offer us a detailed glimpse of the beach. What it does instead, is communicate a mood. Haldankar’s use of colour lends a ‘misty’, soft mood to the painting.
Untitled, 1931 (Watercolour) in the collection of DAG
Untitled, 1919 in the collection of Piramal Museum of Art
Take a look at this landscape of a (fairly populated) town /city. Haldankar employs a limited colour palette and manages to capture the “immensity” of the place. He restrains the use of colour and it is this that lends a suggestion of complexity to the scene.
Today, art historians consider artworks by S.L Haldankar to be representative of an important phase in Indian art-history.