I only wish that I could visit the Tate Modern in London (the image on the left is from Tate) to experience the sheer beauty of Amrita Shergil‘s work. She lived a full life and like many gifted people died at the age 28. Such a dazzling life and so short!
Amrita was born in Budapest in 1913 to a Hungarian mother and a Sikh father. She was educated in Paris and her confrontation with realism defined her style. One of her novice paintings earned a prestigious salon award. After marrying her Hungarian cousin, she settled with her husband in India and joined her family. This was the beginning of a fascinating period in South Asian art as Amrita fused her European art instruction with the Indian locale thereby creating a wholly original and unparalleled stlye. The moods of India, its people started breathing into her works. This unique aesthetic was a turning point in the hisotry of modern art in South Asia. While in India, Amrita absorbed the ancient and immortal lines of wall paintings in Ajanta and Alora and such other cultural motifs.
Amrita was not just another female painter. She also lived a near bohemian life marked by an independent world-view. She also lived in Lahore and this is where she died as well. Her soulful and often sad paintings depicted the tragedy that was to come. In her intense, yet short life she accomplished a lot and left a treasure of art works. (image above right is from here)
Pictures of Amrita and her self portraits (such as the one below right) also show how attractive and reflective she was. Her passion for art and life was remarkable. In India and particularly in Lahore she was an associate of famous people and most of the intellgentsia of pre-partition India had something to say about her once she was no more. Amrita lives in each stroke of South Asian modern painting and continues to inspire the art scene rather profundly.
As I write these lines, the urge to view this major exhibition becomes even stronger. I must read the recently published biography by
Yashodhara Dalmia. About this work it has been said: “This moving tale of a young, impassioned and turbulent life, unfettered by conventions and proprieties, snuffed out at the promising age of 28 is meant for wider dispersal than just the academician, artist or the connoisseur.”