fbpx
Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Amrita Sher-Gil – India’s Frida Kahlo

Amrita Sher-Gil, Self Portrait, date unknown. Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation, New Delhi, India.

Women Artists

Amrita Sher-Gil – India’s Frida Kahlo

Amrita Sher-Gil lived a short but interesting life. Her artistic heritage is rich and impressive. Sher-Gil is considered to be one of the most important painters of 20th-century India, and sometimes she is called India’s Frida Kahlo.

Amrita Sher-Gil photograph
Umrao Singh Sher-Gil (?), photograph of Amrita Sher-Gil, date unknown. Wikimedia Commons.

Amrita Sher-Gil was born on 30 January 1913 in Budapest, Hungary. Her father was a Sikh aristocrat and a scholar in Sanskrit and Persian, her mother, Marie Antoinette Gottesmann was a Hungarian-Jewish opera singer.

Sher-Gil spent most of her early childhood in Budapest but in 1921, her family moved to Summer Hill, Shimla in India where she received a proper education. She had already been painting from the age of five but she formally started learning painting at age of eight.

At sixteen, Sher-Gil sailed to Europe with her mother to train as a painter in Paris, first at the Grande Chaumiere under Pierre Vaillant and Lucien Simon and later at the École des Beaux-Arts. She was inspired by European painters such as Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.

Amrita Sher-Gil, Young Girls, 1932, NGMA Mumbai
Amrita Sher-Gil, Young Girls, 1932, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India.

In 1932, Sher-Gil created her first important work, Young Girls, which led to her election as an Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris in 1933, making her the youngest ever and the only Asian artist to have received this recognition.

Klarra Szepessy, by Amrita Sher-Gil, 1932, NGMA Mumbai
Amrita Sher-Gil, Klarra Szepessy, 1932, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India.

But during her stay in Europe Amrita Sher-Gil missed India. In 1934 she “began to be haunted by an intense longing to return to India.” As she wrote, she started “feeling in some strange way that there lay my destiny as a painter”. She began a quest for the rediscovery of the traditions of Indian art. Later she wrote to her friend:

“I can only paint in India. Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse, Braque… India belongs only to me.”

Amrita Sher-Gil in a letter to a friend.
Amrita Sher-Gil, South Indian Villagers Going to Market, 1937, From the Collection of: Vivan and Navina Sundaram, New Delhi
Amrita Sher-Gil, South Indian Villagers Going to Market, 1937, Collection of Vivan and Navina Sundaram, Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation, New Delhi, India.

Sher-Gil married her Hungarian first cousin, Dr. Victor Egan in 1938 and moved with him to India to stay at her paternal family’s home in Saraya in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Amrita Sher-Gil, Bride's Toilet, 1937, NGMA Mumbai
Amrita Sher-Gil, Bride’s Toilet, 1937, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India.

In Saraya, she painted the leisurely rhythms of life in rural India. Although acclaimed by art critics Karl Khandalavala in Bombay and Charles Fabri in Lahore as the greatest painter of the century, Sher-Gil’s paintings found few buyers.

Amrita Sher-Gil, Three Girls, 1935, NGMA Mumbai
Amrita Sher-Gil, Three Girls, 1935, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, India.

In 1941, just days before the opening of her first major solo exhibition in Lahore, she became seriously ill and slipped into a coma. She died around midnight on 6 December 1941. The reason for her death is still unknown – some suggested a failed abortion and subsequent peritonitis. Her mother accused her doctor husband Victor of having murdered her. On the day after her death, Britain declared war on Hungary, and Victor was sent to jail as an enemy of the state.


Read about other female and Indian artists:

Art Historian, founder and CEO of DailyArtMagazine.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.

Comments

More in Women Artists

  • 20th century

    Christo and Jeanne-Claude: With Love through Art

    By

    If two people are born on precisely the same day, they must be destined to meet. He was Bulgarian, she was French. They met when he was called in to paint a portrait of her mother. They fell in love and began working together to create...

  • 20th century

    A Unique Artist Encounter: When Ara Güler Met Pablo Picasso

    By

    Whether photography is purely art or a branch of journalism can be a subject of discussion. For photographer Ara Güler, the artistic quality of his profession was definitely of secondary importance. He saw his photography projects as adventures that he took to document his age. One...

  • 20th century

    Dive into the World of Fairy Tales with Čiurlionis

    By

    Wouldn’t it be nice to immerse yourself in a fairy tale: hike among the heroes, fight monsters, visit enchanted lands? It would be a nice break from reality for sure. That is why today we present paintings that dwell in the fantasy world of fairy tales...

  • 20th century

    Living in the Shadow – Marie and Peder Severin Krøyer

    By

    Marie and Peder Severin Krøyer were a 19th and early 20th century couple, and, while their marriage and lives were far from ideal, history has judged them both to have been truly notable painters. When Peder Severin Krøyer met the young Marie, he was already an established...

  • Abstraction

    All You Need to Know About Color Field Painting

    By

    Ready for a rollercoaster ride through the world of color field painting? Strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long and wild ride! This article will explore all you need to know about this art movement, its development throughout history, and its most prominent artists....

To Top