India’s Frida Kahlo

Amrita Sher-Gil in her Studio. Photographed by her father Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, 1937.
Amrita Sher-Gil in her Studio. Photographed by her father Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, 1937.

Chances are you haven’t yet heard of the painter Amrita Sher-Gil, but she’d give Frida Kahlo a run for her money.

Beautiful and brilliant, she lived her life passionately and by her own rules. Known for her canvases depicting real Indian life – and for scandalizing her contemporaries with her love affairs (with both sexes), she is touted as India’s first modern artist and known as one of India’s most famous painters.

Born in Budapest in 1913, to Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and scholar and Marie Antoinette Gottesmann, a Jewish Opera singer from Hungary, Amrita spent her early years in Hungary, India, and in France. Training first in Paris, she drew on influences from Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin, but by 1934 she says she “began to be haunted by an intense longing to return to India feeling in some strange way that there lay her destiny as a painter.“

It was after her return to India that she found her artistic mission: to express the life of Indian people through her canvas.  And she did just that. Painting her favorite subjects, the poor and those who “were strangely beautiful in their ugliness.”

Before her early death at age 28, she left behind a body of work that not only establishes her as one of the foremost artists of the century but also as a most eloquent symbol of fusion between East and West – the Gauguin influenced, India returned artist.

Today, she is among Nine Masters whose work has been declared as art treasures by The Archaeological Survey of India.  Over 100 of her paintings are now displayed at National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, and she’s India’s most expensive female painter with a record price of $1.5 million USD.

If the criteria for a dream dinner party guest is bold and brilliant, we’ve just found a new addition to our invite list.

More on Amrita Sher-Gil

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A few Images we love

Amrita Sher-Gil with her Father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil
Self Portrait, 1935
Three Girls, 1935

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