Following his January art fair in New Delhi, Lincoln Seligman, an English painter and sculptor with a fascination for India and a love of turbans in luminous colours, will be exhibiting his work at London’s Osborne Studio Gallery in Belgravia from May 17 to June 4.
Lincoln Seligman, born 1950, read law at Balliol College, Oxford and spent six years in practice as a shipping lawyer. But after six ‘boring’ years, he had amassed enough paintings for an exhibition and abandoned the law for ever.
He has outstanding gifts as an abstract sculptor as well as a painter, has made spectacular works in bronze, steel and glass for high profile public spaces around the world, mainly in Europe, Hong Kong and China. His clients for giant mobile sculptures include Prudential, Cathay Pacific, and Taikoo Place for Swire Properties in Hong Kong. His figurative paintings are inspired by his extensive travels especially in India, Sri Lanka, other parts of Asia and Africa.
Seligman’s connections with India go back to the Just So Stories and The Jungle Book, written by his mother’s godfather, Rudyard Kipling, whose famous line ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same’ has inspired Seligman. His paternal grandmother was a painter living in the Indian Himalayas, and he is fascinated by the architecture of the stepwells of Rajasthan, planning a painting sojourn in Chand Baori and Palitona, Gujarat next year to paint a stepwell and temple series.
In 2007, he collaborated with Standard Chartered Bank and the Royal Academy to exhibit his paintings for the charity Seeing is Believing to benefit people with poor vision in India who cannot afford decent eye care. In one week, 100 paintings were sold, raising £500, 000 for the charity.
A collection of 36 of Seligman’s paintings has recently been shown at the prestigious India Art Fair in New Delhi, and in May there will be a solo show at the Osborne Studio Gallery in London. His new works will depict his favourite subjects, infused with brilliant light, as well as graceful abstracts, reminiscent of his public sculpture.
Seligman is currently engaged on a painting trip in India that will take in Varanasi, Orchha, Gwalior, Fatehpur Sikir and Jaipur. His creative process is to take photographs and make a mini watercolour on location which he executes as a full size painting at home in his studio.
‘The main point of my travels in India will be in preparation for my London exhibition,’ he explains.
The Seligmans first went to America from Germany in 1850, and became bankers. One of them was treasurer to Abraham Lincoln, ‘hence my name,’ says Seligman. ‘My great grandfather came to the UK in 1870.’ Lincoln’s father was something of a hero: he played cricket for Harrow, became President of the Union at Oxford, and represented the university at rugby, tennis and skiing.
A frequent visitor to India, Seligman has a particular talent for painting turbans, inspired by the brilliant colours of Rajasthan.
‘I can’t paint enough of them,’ he laughs, adding that they are not difficult to sell. ‘They walk off the wall.’
Of his Indian paintings Seligman says, ‘It’s an English take. I look at India as an Englishman. I can’t be anything other than what I am.’
What the art world now wants is for Indians to come and capture the beauty of Britain. There are many British Indian artists, from Sir Anish Kapoor to Shanti Pnchal and Akash Bhati, but their sensibility is not wholly Indian.