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If you thought million dollar price tags were commanded only by European masters, then it is time to refresh your knowledge of art.

The past decade has witnessed several of our own Indian masters fetching million dollar cheques for their acclaimed artworks in global art auctions.

In this blog, we present to you a list of some of the most expensive paintings by Indian artists.

It includes names of some of India’s most renowned artists who today command a commendable respect in the global art fraternity.

‘Birth’ by Francis Newton Souza

Value USD 4.085 million 

Birth”, a painting by Goa-born artist Francis Newton Souza was sold for a record price of USD 4.085 million at a Christie's auction in New York in 2015.

This painting by Souza is considered as one amongst his most important works after he moved to London in the 1950s and lived there until his death in 2002.

It was painted in 1955 and included in his first solo show at the Gallery One in London.

F N Souza is known for his paintings, which primarily put more emphasis on darker and depressive side of the society.

The painting ‘Birth’ articulately represents the pain a pregnant female figure experiences while giving birth to her child.

Besides, it also depicts landscape, visible through the open window of the bedroom recurrently bringing us back to the area of London where he used to live.

The painting inimitably comprises of all the subjects that outlines

  • Souza’s early practice, including the pregnant lady laying down nude with hairpins
  • The non-fictional man in a priest’s tunic
  • A still life on the window shelf and, beyond the window
  • A townscape with corniced buildings and tall towers

Untitled by V S Gaitonde

Value USD 3.7 million

An untitled painting by Vasudeo Gaitonde, was sold for USD 3.7 million in an auction by Christie’s art gallery in the year 2013.

A widely revered Indian painter, Gaintode’s, artwork mirrors his experimental spirit, both in terms of form and colour.

Gaitonde's work includes an intrinsic structure and control in the core of its apparently free-flowing stream of consciousness.

Traversing the subtle poise of light, texture, color, and space, his paintings bring about new innovations with each viewing. 

‘Saurashtra’ by Syed Haider Raza

Value USD 3.49 million

“Saurashtra”, a painting by Syed Haider Raza was sold for USD 3.49 million at a Christie's in London in the year 2010.

Raza was a founding member of the Bombay Progressive Artist's group and earned global prominence in Paris in the late 1950s and 60s after moving to France in 1950.

In 1983, he painted Saurashtra, a pivotal work that belongs to a key period in Raza's profession.

The painting depicts the beauty of the Gujarati coastal landscape.

In initial years Raza worked primarily in Ecole de Paris and Abstract Expressionism. In later years, he started integrating vital components of his Indian childhood and traditional legacy in his artwork.

Through codified and emblematic language, Raza makes use of specific shapes and colours in his artwork to symbolize different facets of nature’s creation

Saurashtra is a perfect fusion of various motifs that Raza embarked upon during the course of his long career.

It conjures up the beauty of the landscape and natural environment, gesture and manifestation, and geometry and spiritualism altogether in one canvas.

Untitled - Figure on a Rickshaw by Tyeb Mehta

Value USD 3.24 million 

An untitled painting by Tyeb Mehta, a key member of the Bombay Progressive Artist's group was sold for USD 3.24 million at a Christie’s auction in London in the year 2011.

The untitled work depicts a human figure reclining on a hand-pulled rickshaw in blocks of greys, reds and saffron. 

The inspiration for the rickshaw puller came to Mehta from his annual summer holidays spent at his grandmothers’ place in Kolkata.

It became an important inspiration for his early paintings. His compassion for the ground poverty, struggle and torture of the rickshaw puller is evident in this painting.

In addition to the Rickshaw Puller, Mehta has several other million dollar paintings to his credit. These include Mahisasura, Kali, and Untitled - Falling Bull amongst others. 

Self Portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil

Value USD 2.92 million 

A self-portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil was sold for USD 2.92 million in an auction by Sotheby’s in New York in the year 2015 setting new records for the artist who is considered the greatest female painter of India.

The painting is believed to have been painted by Sher-Gil during her teenage years.

Born in Budapest in the year 1913 to a Sikh father and a Hungarian mother, Sher-Gil lived between Europe and India.

Her works are highly influenced by the Bengal School of Art, Pahari School Painting, and European styles.

‘Wish Dreams’ by Arpita Singh

Value USD 2.24 million 

“Wish Dream”, an abstract figurative composition by Arpita Singh was sold for USD 2.24 million at an auction organized by Saffronart in the year 2010.

  • This painting is amongst one of Singh's most important works’ and took more than three years to complete.
  • The painting consists of 16 individual canvas panels and has echoes of Buddhist Thangka paintings and Kantha work.
  • It has two women in pivotal figures, both elevated to goddess-like beings that seem to hold together and direct the rest of the painting's diverse cast of characters and everyday objects such as cars, planes and guns.
  • The painting symbolizes the wishes and dreams of a woman within our society and how these are related to other women through rituals.

Arpita is renowned for her figurative work. She draws inspiration from the private and public lives of women and external elements that have an influence on them.

An element of rigidity inherent in them reveals a world - part simple and part palpable - as she depicts the space of women in the communal structure, the growing chauvinism, vehemence and social prejudice.

The artist often adroitly includes simple objects, such as guns, flowers, telephones, to express her perspective. 

‘Battle of Ganga and Jamuna’ by M F Husain

Value USD 1.6 million 

The “Battle of Ganga and Jamuna” by MF Husain is amongst the costliest paintings of the artist. Painted in the year 1972, the painting was purchased by an anonymous bidder in a Christie’s auction in 2008.

The inspiration for the painting is derived from Hindu mythologies and depicts the battle between right and wrong. The painting is marked for its use of dark and bright colours, along with the modified cubist style of Husain.

Husain was one of the most renowned Indian artists and earned himself the sobriquet of “Picasso of India”.

The “Battle of Ganga and Jamuna” is one of Husain's most noteworthy works.

This painting is part of a series of 27 paintings that he started creating in 1971 for the 11th Sao Paolo Biennial on the Mahabharata, the Hindu epic describing the celestial civil war between forces of right and wrong with the matter of morality and sense of duty at its fundamental.

Read More: 6 Most Enticing Abstract Paintings of M.F. Husain