Heart of the Desert

Detail, Lake Gadisar © Ajit Ghai


Detail of Lake Gadisar © Ajit Ghai

Artist’s Statement

All through my training in sketching and painting, I was inspired by Bargue and Gérôme’s Cours de dessin to reproduce what I saw in real life and the natural world. Included below is one of my sketches (2016) of Bargue’s Plate I, 63:


Sketch of Bargue Plate I, 63 © Ajit Ghai


The following three paintings are from photographs I took on my trip to Rajasthan (India) in 2012. They are all done in oil on canvas.


Lake Gadisar was built in 1156 in the sandy district of Jaisalmer that lies in the heart of the Thar Desert. This spread of water in a region surrounded by treeless sands exists as an essential anomaly that once provided water to the entire city.


Lake Gadisar © Ajit Ghai


The painting Rajasthan Camel Herders, Jaisalmer is reminiscent of an ancient form of transportation that has survived for centuries. It is as old as India and neighbouring countries. The desert sands that blow in the wind know no barriers and tell few stories. They are eternal.


Rajasthan Camel Herders, Jaisalmer © Ajit Ghai


Jodhpur Fort Wall depicts the flat and narrow walls of the famous Mehrangarh Fort built in 1459 by Rao Jodha. What you often see in pictures is the large and imposing structure of this fort, but the painting below depicts the extent of what I saw between two walls. The narrow stretch of blue, the distant gold, and the flight of birds is what has existed for centuries.


Jodhpur Fort Wall © Ajit Ghai




Ajit Ghai has a master’s degree in mathematics and has spent most of his working life in the field of technology. As an artist, he began his training 14 years ago under the guidance of Donata Szafian. He continued by going through the well-known Cours de dessin developed by Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme in mid-19th-century France. The course aims to develop among students the discipline and skill required to reproduce sets of approximately 200 lithographs at increasing levels of difficulty. The goal is to create realistic images of the natural world and living models. Ajit started by producing sketches from Bargue lithographs and copied works by great master painters such as Delacroix. He continues to draw and paint with guidance from his teacher and mentor, Donata Szafian.