Amrita Sher-Gil

Hungarian-Indian painter (1913–1941)

Amrita Sher-Gil (January 30, 1913December 5, 1941), an eminent Indian painter, was the daughter of Sardar Umrao Singh Shergil and Antoinette, a Hungarian lady. Her first notable work was "Young Girls", which made her an Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris in 1933; she was the youngest ever Asian to receive this recognition. Her quest for the rediscovery of the traditions of Indian art began at an young age but was cut short by her death at a prime age of 28. Mughal school of painting and Pahari schools of painting and the cave paintings at Ajanta greatly influenced her paintings. She was considered a prominent woman painter of 20th century India. Her legacy is comparable to that of the Masters of Bengal Renaissance. The Government of India has declared her works as National Art Treasures. She was sometimes called as India's Frida Kahlo.

Amrita Sher-Gil

Quotes edit

Modern art has led me to the comprehension and appreciation of Indian painting and sculpture. It seems paradoxical, but I know for certain that had we not come away to Europe, I should perhaps never have realized that a fresco from Ajanta... is worth more than the whole Renaissance!

  • In "Toward a Development of a Cosmopolitan Aesthetic"

"I am an individualist, evolving a new technique, which, through not necessarily Indian in the traditional sense of the word, will yet be fundamentally Indian in spirit. With the eternal significance of form and color I interpret India and, principally, the life of the Indian poor on the plane that transcends the plane of mere sentimental interest."

  • Amrita Sher-Gill: Art and Life: A Reader (page xvii)

Sikh Heritage, Amrita Shergil edit

Amrita Shergil. Sikh Hertigae. Retrieved on 7 December 2013.

  • Towards the end of 1933 I began to be haunted by an intense longing to return to India, feeling in some strange inexplicable way that there lay my destiny as a painter.
    • In 1933, when she wanted to return to India.
  • Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse and many others, India belongs only to me.
    • When Amrita returned to India because her experience in a metropolis, after the initial excitement had died down.
  • The life of Indians, particularly the poor, pictorially....with a new technique, my own technique...and this technique though not technically Indian, in the traditional sense of the word, will yet be fundamentally Indian in spirit.
    • Her decision after coming to India in 1935.
  • ...was to interpret the life of Indians and particularly the poor Indians, pictorially.
    • Proclamation of her mission when she painted "The Beggars and Woman with Sunflower".
  • Traditions that were once vital, sincere and splendid and which are now merely empty formulae, [nor to imitate fifth rate western art slavishly] break away from both and produce something vital, connected with the soil, something essentially Indian.
    • Amrita to her contemporary painters.
  • She was very fair and there was an expression of weariness in the lovely liquid dark eyes. Her little finely curved and red hued lips seemed like drooping rosebuds and were sealed as if it were in silence eternal....she seemed as if she guessed the cruel fate which had been meted out for her by the Rani and Rajah and her other rich but distant relations in whose hands she seemed a helpless toy.
  • I am always in love, but unfortunately for the party concerned, I fall out of love or rather fall in love with someone else before any damage can be done.
    • About her love life
  • Modern art has led me to the comprehension and appreciation of Indian painting and sculpture. It seems paradoxical but I know for certain that had we not come away to Europe, I should perhaps never have realised that a fresco from Ajanta or a small piece of sculpture in the Musee Guimet is worth more than a whole Renaissance.'
    • In 1934 on her new art form
  • I shall in future be obliged to resign myself to exhibiting them (her paintings) merely at the Grand Salon, Paris, of which I happen to be an Associate and the Salon de Tuileries known all over the world as the representative exhibition of Modern Art, and to which I have been invited to participate in the past, a distinction I may add that few can boast of.
  • Revelations. Ellora magnificent. Ajanta curiously subtle and fascinating-I have for the first time since my return to India learnt something from somebody else's work.
    • Her surprised reaction on seeing art work in Ellora and Ajanta
  • The Brahmacharis as the most difficult thing she had ever done....don't you think I have learnt something from Indian painting?...I don't know whether it is a passing phase or a durable change in my outlook but I see in a more detached manner, more ironically than I have ever done.
    • In a letter to Karl Khandalavala in 1937 after she had done three paintings on south Indian villagers - The Bride's Toilet, The Brahmacharis, and South Indian Villagers going to Market.
  • These little compositions are the expression of my happiness and that is why perhaps I am particularly fond of them.
    • On Her paintings from January to May 1938 done at Saraya including Elephants Bathing.
  • I was positively stunned and have straight away become a votary of Mathura art to the exclusion of all the other and later schools.
    • At Mathura where she saw Kushan sculpture for the first time and she proclaimed.
  • It is dreadful to think of Paris in German hands but what preoccupies me still more is what is going to happen to modern French art and the younger artists.
    • In June 1938 Amrita and her husband fled from Fascist dominated Hungary.
  • I was positively stunned and have straightaway become a votary of Mathura art to the exclusion of all the other and later schools. I had some of the things in reproductions but never dreamt they were so magnificent. With the possible exception of Mahabalipuram I don’t think I have seen anything in Indian sculpture that I liked so much.

About Amrita Sher-Gil edit

  • The self-portraits display the artist moving from girl to woman to artist as she explored a sensuality that ranges from the heavy-handed to the subtle. Sher-Gil casts herself in a serious light in her Self-Portrait with Easel (1930), moving deliberately from the domestic and the intimate context of the nineteenth-century woman artist to the monumental and majestic poses recalling those of Rembrandt and later Van Gogh. Indira dressed as a European gentleman with Amrita dressed as her female partner.
  • At stake was not only a serious and viable artistic career as a woman, but the development of a subjectivity that was being defined through the self-portrait. conscious of being both muse and maker, Sher-Gil took on the position of artist and object with a double consciousness of being both.”
  • Art in India was never the same after her comet like appearance. There are only a few moments in the history of art which pinpoint a new departure, a new direction. Such a moment in the history of modern Indian art was the appearance in the mid-thirties of Amrita Sher-Gil with whose paintings contemporary paintnig in India took shape and demonstrated the possibility of a contemporary style and expression that were, at the same time, of the soil and in direct continuation of the great national past.
  • She [Sher-Gil] melded the Western and Indian idioms and did not, like many other artists of her time, attempt to find an authentic ‘Indian’ mode or weave together a nationalist agenda.
  • A life cut tragically short, but with more colour perhaps than one may find in her work.
  • Amrita's life was more colourful than the bright colours she used in her paintings—this is a good look at it.
  • that she was really a virgin because she'd never experienced the spiritual equivalent of copulation: she had many lovers but they'd left no scar. I'll leave a scar.
  • An Indian with a measure of European blood, she returned to India to shed her acquired skin....She saw her country with new vision and has left a legacy of pictures simple and a tribute to the Indian countryside and its people.
  • Rose water and raw spirit...weird amalgam of the bearded star gazer and the red haired pianist pounding away at her keyboard.
    • Malcolm Muggeridge who had an serious affair with her in The Triumph of Modernism: India's Artists and the Avant-garde, 1922-1947, page=46
  • I didn't know how much truth there was to gossip of her being a nymphomaniac, but I was eager to get to know her.

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