Yamuna, Charcoal, 1985, Mumbiram
Yamuna, Charcoal, 1985, Mumbiram

Sakhrabai had a neighbour named Gunabai, who had three daughters: Gokula, Mathura and Ranjana. Mathura used to go out rag-picking with Kusum. Mathura had a dark classical face. The portrait of “Mathura and her Baby” was acquired by Odile Knorr of Cologne in 1989. Mathura had two younger brothers. The younger was Sandipani. Sandipani is the name of Krishna’s Guru. How the illiterate Gunabai got these esoteric names from the Krishna story is beyond easy speculation. Sandipani always saw Mumbiram as his personal hero. Mumbiram also liked the handsome dark little boy. This charcoal portrait is inspired by the wife of Sandipani’s elder brother.

Mumbiram used to see Yamuna while visiting Gunabai’s home in Kusum’s neighbourhood. Mumbiram was attracted to the very serene beauty that her face exuded. It lingered in his mind. Mumbiram made this charcoal rendering sitting in his Mandai atelier. Kusum and all her friends have seen it and liked it. Yet nobody has identified her as Mathura’s sister in-law. That suited Mumbiram quite well. Mumbiram was proud of this creation.

It appears in the ‘Waiting in the Wings’ article in the Maharasthra Herald in 1988. It was spontaneously acquired by a young computer professional from Berlin in 1988.

It was first of the many charcoals that Mumbiram would eventually sell. Mumbiram made several versions of this very classical portrait. One was acquired by Drs. Jayant and Mangala Naralikar. The other versions of this portrait have their own beauty. But this will be surely held as an all-time classic.

Yamuna, detail, Charcoal, Mumbiram

Mumbiram has wonderfully captured the amazing light and shade play on Yamuna’s body. Most houses in Kusum’s neighbourhood were just tin shacks that had only one door and no windows. Yamuna is sitting about five feet inside such a door.

The treatment of the face is gentle and masterly. The use of the charcoal medium in such a transparent way is extraordinary. For Mumbiram it was perfect for making pictures of the dark people of India.

It is evident that this artist considers the human body and the human face as the most beautiful of God’s creation.

Much could be written about the expression on this beautiful face and yet much more will remain to be said. Notice the extra large Kumkum decoration on Yamuna’s forehead. Notice how gracefully Yamuna’s sari wraps around her head, torso and legs. Notice the different textures of the hair, the face, the hand and the feet.