Sawlaram Haldankar: A Realist Portraitist From Modern India

Sawlaram Haldankar was an important painter of the 20th century remembered for his paintings like Glow of Hope using the perfectionist strokes and realist values.

Sawlaram Haldankar

Like the valleys of orchids and lilies, India was a place where leaders excelled: and artists flourished. It is not ordinary to live in such a place where spirituality was prominent even in the art forms. Far till now, we can see a glimpse of them through Indian classical music, dance forms, and paintings. Temples, places, icons, rituals, and practices have embellished religion in the ages through the visual arts. Visual art is one such crucial form of expression that led to vast development in the culture, identity, and traditions of the nation. During this time, many painters and musicians gained recognition. One such well-known Indian painter who beautified the process is Sawlaram Haldankar.

Sawlaram Haldankar Photograph
Sawlaram Haldankar Photograph | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1882, he was born into a family of a princely state in Sawanatwadi, now located in Maharashtra, and showed a natural talent in the arts from an early age. The headmaster of his school in Sawanatwadi first noticed his potential, taking him to the Raja to encourage it. After completing his schooling, he went to Sir J.J School of Art through Raja’s scholarship. Mahadev Vishwanath Dhurandhar and Cecil Leonard Burns taught him as a student. In the years that followed his graduation from the J.J. School of Arts, Haldankar accepted a teaching position at the same institution. By 1908, he had established in Bombay the Haldankar Fine Arts Institute. In 1918, he founded the Art Society of India with some friends and became its first president. A glimpse into his personal life reveals that he was married young. His married life was a happy one with conventional with seven kids. His eldest son Gajanan, better known as G.S Haldankar, became a renowned watercolourist. A prominent classical singer, Babanrao Haldankar, is the third son. His beautiful paintings reveal the two daughters he had. Gita Haldankar, later known as Gita Uplekar, was one of the three daughters. He was known for his outstanding watercolours among his notable artworks. His paintings were often incorrectly attributed to Raja Ravi Verma however, he drew them himself.

Campus view of Sir JJ School of Art Mumbai
Campus view of Sir JJ School of Art Mumbai

London, Mumbai, Madras, and Shimla have all displayed their works. Upon independence, he was recognized by India’s President, Rajendra Prasad. Several prominent museums house his work, including the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai, the Jaganmohan Palace Museum in Mysore, the Moscow Academy of Art in Russia, the Nagpur Museum in Nagpur, and the Delhi Art Gallery.

Paintings by the Well Known Indian Painter, Haldankar.

1. Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.

The portrait of Bapu by Haldankar, painted in 1951, is a masterpiece. Drawing him in a realistic manner where he is wearing khaki cloth, he represents him as being covered by white. The colour white denotes the peace that can be attained by adhering to Gandhi’s principles, which are Ahminsa and Truth. Gandhi Chashma in golden colour clearly distinguishes the painting from the rest with its gleaming appeal. We are taking this as a message here. As a result, we conclude that harmony and success are assured only if the vision is unprecedented from the rest. Our ageless father’s wrinkles are a clear visual representation of the struggles of the Indian territory under British rule. The shadow of Bapu is visible on the wall behind him. The saturation of the painting is just like our natural skin colour. On the rightmost corner, he has an original signature on the artwork.

Mahatma Gandhi Sawlaram Haldankar
Mahatma Gandhi by Sawlaram Haldankar | Source: MutualArt

2. Landscape.

India’s art and literature have often highlighted the pre-eminence of temple architecture throughout history. In a similar vein, S.L. Haldankar depicted a scene from any historical temple and conveyed realism through the use of oil paint and detailed shadows and colours. When closely examined, we can see a group of people participating in religious activities in the far-off temple building in the painting. A painting like this dates to 1920. The woman on the right is observing the attendees while sitting under a Kund. In the garden near the stairs, you can often find sacred Tulsi grass and durva grass. On the Mandapa of the temple, we can see numerous people worshipping. The temple architecture consists of Mandapa, Garbagriha, Shikhara, and Vimana. Alongside the red flags are the eye-catching aspect here.

Landscape S.L. Haldankar
Landscape by S.L. Haldankar | Source: Unknown Author

3. Muslim Pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage has consistently been a significant part of human development and entertainment since the beginning. This artwork is exactly emphasizing the importance of the Pilgrimage. Haldankar, a well known Indian painter, demonstrated a Muslim pilgrimage here. His attire of a long black dress, Muslim cap, with red and white shawls covered him. The potli or carrier bag on his back depicts the long traveller sign here. Maybe he is a Banjara who lives his life travelling from place to place. The colours are contrasting as the red wrap is an eye-catching element here. The long red-brown beard of him is giving realism to his character. Behind him, we can see a beautiful green valley that is again attractive. The colours are pretty vibrant and saturated here. The lines and wrinkles on his face represent his age correctly.

Muslim Pilgrimage Sawlaram Haldankar
Muslim Pilgrimage by Sawlaram Haldankar | Source: Nathan Hughes Hamilton / Flickr

4. The Lake Side Boating.

It depicts a breathtaking scene of a lake with old yachts surrounded by beautiful mountains and a cloudy sky painted by Haldankar. Different hues of the sky represent different variations in life. Despite the blue sky and the clear skies of life, troubles cannot be overlooked or ignored for all time. The main eye-catching point here is the colours used in different shades. Long yachts symbolize that life cannot stand still at any time. We must constantly move forward. As we can see, the evening dawns with the priority of calmness. Here the artist again signs in the rightmost corner of the artwork.

Lake Side Boating S.L. Haldankar
Lake Side Boating by S.L. Haldankar | Source: MutualArt

5. Jogeshwari Caves.

It is from ancient caves that we can trace the roots of our culture. Indian rock-cut architecture began in the 3rd century BCE, and among these were various spots with depictions of religions followed during the time. One such religion is Buddhism. The caves contain some of the earliest cave sculptures and date back to 520-550 CE. Professor Walter Spink points out that Jogeshwari is the oldest cave temple in India and the largest (in terms of total length). Jogeshwari is the name for a Hindu deity, and thus these belong to them. The depiction drawn by the artist counts such values and imagines the beauty by building the reflection of the Jogeshwari entryway as one woman sits near the cave rock or structure reading. The other woman is an attendee wearing a saffron sari. Utilizing contrasting water colours and shadow effects, he created a realistic rendering of the rock structures.

Sawlaram Haldankar Paintings Jogeshwari Caves
Jogeshwari Caves by Sawlaram Haldankar | Source: Saffron Art

6. Divine Flame.

When Agni burns all the demons and negativity, it also lightens the dark environment and brings happiness to people’s lives. A lady lights a diya with a stick while holding a chain. She wears a maroon blouse and saffron sari, necklace, earrings, and bangles in both hands along, with a flower gajra on her bun. The Bindi completes her traditional look. Her glowing face and hands, caused by the lighting of the diya, seem to resemble that of a luminous photograph. It also shows divinity on her face. The shadows behind her on the wall are the realistic components of the painting. This one is a masterpiece painting from the gallery of Haldankar. He has portrayed his daughter Lilavati in this artwork.

Divine Flame Sawlaram Haldankar
Divine Flame by Sawlaram Haldankar | Source: Google Arts & Culture

7. Glow of Hope.

Currently exhibited at Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore, Glow of Hope is his most famous painting. His daughter Gita Haldankar is depicted in that painting. As she wears her saree, she is dressed in lavender and gold, representing different things – lavender is the colour of grace, and gold is the colour of royalty. Women in sarees symbolize dignity, femininity, and natural beauty. In this painting, the glowing candle in her hand is placed in a darkened space usually draped with curtains to emphasize its subtlety. It is accentuated by the shadow cast by the woman in the back. Gita Haldankar explained that this painting was created by posing for three hours a day for three days. It more accurately represents the calmness, beauty, and dignity that define the Diwali look.

Glow of Hope painting Sawlaram Haldankar
Glow of Hope by Sawlaram Haldankar | Source: Unknown Author


Among the well-known Indian painters, Sawlaram Haldankar is one of the most noted ones who is remembered by few. Though historians attach him to the modern art makers from India, his paintings depict a resemblance to impressionist strokes with realism added for its value. What do you think about his work and which one attracted you the most?

Frequently Asked Questions.

Who was Sawlaram Haldankar?

Sawlaram Haldankar was a modern Indian artist known for his realist portraiture and scenery depictions. The artist attended and taught at Sir J.J School Of Art while contributing to finding the prestigious Art Society of India, later becoming its first president.

What type of artwork did Sawlaram Haldankar make?

Realist watercolour paintings.

Who painted the Glow of Hope?

Sawlaram Haldankar, a modern Indian painter, created the Glow of Hope to depict her daughter Gita Haldankar carrying a glowing candle. The painting is among the most famous realist portraits of the 1900s and hangs at the Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore for public exhibition.

Where are Sawlaram Haldankar’s paintings?

Though many of the artist’s works were claimed at private auctions, some are still possessed by the government. You can find his paintings at museums like the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai, the Jaganmohan Palace Museum in Mysore, the Moscow Academy of Art in Russia, the Nagpur Museum in Nagpur, and the Delhi Art Gallery.


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