Avinash Chandra

Hills of Gold


Avinash Chandra 1931–1991
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1016 × 2413 mm
frame: 1025 × 2422 × 30 mm
Presented by Dr Gerhard and Hella Adler 1965

Technique and condition

This painting is in oil on a medium-weight plain weave canvas with a commercially applied priming layer that contains lead and zinc white. It is unvarnished. The painting was accomplished in more than one session, and there is evidence of reworking and painting over earlier compositions. A very small cross-section of paint taken from a bright red passage shows a second priming layer between two paint layers, the present red one and an earlier pale yellow one, suggesting that the canvas might have been repurposed by the artist.

The paint application is varied, being brushed dry and thin in some areas, while other passages are built up with thick textural brush strokes. Some passages of paint appear glossy, and dilution of the paint has produced distinctive drips. These glossy drips were often partially painted over and reintegrated into the composition after they have dried. Rounded forms were reinforced with black or green outlines, the light background emphasised with a thickly applied white paint. Chandra exploits a process of superimposing layers of paint, working back and forth between geometric compositions, strong outlines and negative shapes to build up to a unified landscape.

The palette Chandra used for Hills of Gold included a range of bright colours such as alizarin crimson, cadmium red and orange, chrome yellow, an organic green pigment, bone black, and Prussian blue. Extender pigments including chalk, barium sulphate and magnesium carbonate have been identified. The presence of magnesium carbonate suggests the use of Winsor & Newton paints although the simultaneous use of paints by other manufacturers is not excluded.

The painting is in good condition however most passages of paint, excluding white or colours mixed with white, are water sensitive. Water sensitivity is commonly encountered on unvarnished oil paintings and is the subject of ongoing research (see the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project). There are also some regions of surface whitening or efflorescence in passages of medium-rich paint including organic red (alizarin crimson) and black paints. This is commonly encountered in oil paintings and occurs when mobile components of the oil binding medium migrate to the surface of the painting. The surface whitening would only necessitate conservation treatment if it were to become more visually disturbing.

Further reading
Rachel Garfield and Valerie Murray-Chandra, Avinash Chandra: a Retrospective, London, 2006.
Jonathan Black, 20th Century British Art: Painting, Sculpture, Drawings, Prints, exh. cat., Osborne Samuel, London 2005.

Judith Lee and Lucia Bay
July 2016

Research on this work was undertaken as part of the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project.

Catalogue entry

Avinash Chandra born 1931 [- 1991]

T00724 Hills of Gold 1964

Inscribed 'Avinash 64' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 40 x 95 (101.5 x 241.5)
Presented by Dr and Mrs Gerhard Adler 1965
Prov: Dr and Mrs Gerhard Adler, London (purchased from the artist for presentation)
Exh: Indian Painting Now, Commonwealth Institute, London, January-February 1965 (38, repr.)
Lit: W.G. Archer, introduction to exh. catalogue Avinash Chandra, Hamilton Galleries, London, March 1965, n.p., repr.; Chandra material in the India Office Library, London

In his introduction to the Commonwealth Institute exhibition, W.G. Archer relates Chandra's work to the symbolic poems found in earlier Indian art and poetry: 'In Avinash Chandra's work sexual images play a vital role, but it is important to realise that they are almost always introduced as part of a much larger experience and in a wider context. They are symbols of exuberance, resilience, toughness and delight and part of their appeal lies in their constant blending with other poetic images: spires, trees, flowers, orchards, hills, moons and stars.' He developed the theme further in his introduction to the Hamilton Galleries exhibition (loc. cit.): 'During the making of the Monitor film on his work by BBC Television, Chandra began to introduce the female nude more boldly into his painting. He reverted, in other words, not only to traditional Indian attitudes but to a subject which accounts for some of the greatest Indian sculpture. He developed a more indolent and sumptuous line and while continuing to show great heads packed with teeming reveries, he began to delve into the body with almost surgical zest. At the same time he retained his Indian sense of men and women as part of Nature and of landscapes as human lovers. "Hills of Gold" is a blend of all these concepts. A giant nude, caressed by an invisible lover, is at the same time a red hill assailed by gusts of wind or banks of cloud. The nude has the solemn majesty of a long down; the hill something of the sultry glamour of a brooding enchantress.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.117

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