New Delhi, Feb 12:
Some rare and unseen paintings of iconic Indian artist Amrita Sher-Gil are displayed at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in the capital that trace her artistic journey and chronicle social-political situations that influenced her enormous oeuvre.
Of over 100 paintings and sketches mounted in exhibition “Amrita Sher-Gil: The Passionate Quest”, some are displayed for the first time. The exhibition is on till March 2.
According to its curator and art historian Yashodhara Dalmia, the most difficult task for her was to find ways of showcasing the artist’s sensitivity towards life and capture essence of things that influenced her work. Sher-Gil died suddenly at the age of 29.
“Some paintings are from early stages of her career which began when she was 16. It is fascinating to see how even at that time she would paint human form in a sensual manner,” Dalmia told IANS.
“Another discovering while curating this was to see how many paintings she has made of her own self. There are many self-portraits where she has painted herself looking troubled, excited and happy. It was a way of reflecting herself as a painter and her various moods,” she added.
Born in Budapest to a Sikh father from an aristocratic, land-owing family, and a Hungarian mother, Sher-Gil’s life veered between Europe and India.
Dalmia, who has also written a biography of the artist “Amrita Sher-Gil – A Life”, has approached her artistic journey by taking four different perspectives: Threshold, Icon and Iconoclastic, Hungarian Manifestation and Indian Journey.
“Threshold captures her Paris phase when she was still under training and was trying to master the technique. In the Indian journey section, one can see how she burst into colours after coming to India. This is also the time when she started looking at the life of women in India,” Dalmia added.
Sher-Gil’s works always focussed on women and marganalised people, she observed.
This is why the exhibition has weary Indian village women in pensive moods, sitting in groups or alone, or with children. There is also a nude, and a bride.
Sher-Gil’s Indian paintings have also found inspiration from Ajanta paintings and Indian miniatures.
A graduate from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, her work has been a perfect amalgamation of western and eastern sensibilities.
“She would successfully mix together western and eastern forms of art and put them into contemporary Indian settings,” pointed out Dalmia.
In the Icon and Iconolastic section, Dalmia has put together a collection where sad and pensive women form a major chunk of the collection.
“She was always sensitive towards women and would understand their sadness. In this section, there is a painting of a bride who is dressed in a red sari, but is extremely sad and pensive because she knew she was walking into a life that would be full of restrictions,” said Dalmia.
Apart from these paintings and sketches that are from the in-house collection of the NGMA, there are a few personal letters on display and they come from the personal collection of art collector Nitin Bhayan.
Dalmia too has contributed a few photographs to make this exhibition a comprehensive chronological essay on the life of one of the most iconic painters of the 20th century.