Krishen Khanna, ‘Untitled (Portrait of Ali Akbar Khan)’, Christie's South Asian + Chinese

In 1953, Krishen Khanna and his family moved to Madras. Within a few years, through his daughter's involvement in Bharatanatyam, Khanna was introduced to Carnatic music. This is where his interest in Indian Classical music developed, amplified and cultivated through his interactions within the sphere of the musical elite in Madras. This reverberates throughout similar works at the time, resulting in a series of paintings that dealt with the subject matter of music and many were characterized by a 'rapid gestural experiment. His attempt was to transform the creation of rhythmic sound in time into the movement of brush in space, on canvas.' (G. Sinha, Krishen Khanna: A Critical Biography 2001, p. 48)

Image rights: [Christie's](


Acquired directly from the artist in 1970

Thence by Descent

The previous owners were introduced to Krishen Khanna and subsequently Tyeb Mehta while visiting New Delhi in 1970. From the previous owner's memoirs: "The next day Krishen Khanna brought many of his canvases, all very large, out onto the sun-lit terrace, and after recording some of them on slides, we settled on the portrait of Ali Akbar Khan, the great sitarist and teacher of Ravi Shankar. The painting was to be delivered in New York by Krishen after a show that he had scheduled in London. Krishen also urged us to visit the studio of another artist, named Tyeb Mehta, who lived nearby. Tyeb was a struggling young artist [...] we offered to buy one of [his paintings of] an anguished female figure we called the "Green Lady". Tyeb was coming to the States on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship and promised to deliver the painting when he came, which happened about a year later. These two paintings are important to us not only because we love art, but also because of the precious memories that they elicit."

About Krishen Khanna

Indian, b. 1925, Faislabad, Pakistan, based in New Delhi, India

Group Shows

Dag Modern, 
New York,
Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art

Fair History on Artsy

Dag Modern at India Art Fair 2017
Delhi Art Gallery at Art15 London
Delhi Art Gallery at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015