Amrita Sher-Gil

Amrita Sher-Gil

name = Amrita Sher-Gil

image_size= 200px
caption = (1913-1941)
birth_date = birth date |1913|1|30
birth_place = Budapest, Hungary
death_date = death date and age|1941|12|5|1913|1|30|mf=y
death_place = Lahore), British India
occupation = painter
salary =
networth =
imdb_id =
website =

Amrita Sher-Gil (अमृता शेरगिल) (January 30, 1913 [ Great Minds, The Tribune, March 12, 2000] ] , – December 5, 1941), was an eminent Indian painter, sometimes known as India's Frida Kahlo [ Amrita Sher-Gill at] ] , and today considered an important women painter of 21st century India, whose legacy stands at par with that of the Masters of Bengal Renaissance [ [ First Lady of the Modern Canvas] Indian Express, October 17, 1999.] [ Women painters at] ] ; she is also the 'most expensive' woman painter of India [ [ Most expensive Indian artists] ] . Today, she is amongst "Nine Masters", whose work was declared as "art treasures" by The Archaeological Survey of India, in 1976 and 1979 [ [ Nine Masters] Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh Ofdicial website.]

She was daughter of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and also a scholar in Sanskrit and Persian, and Marie Antoinette Gottesmann, a Jewish Opera singer from Hungary. Sher-Gil was the elder of two daughters born to Umrao Singh and Marie Antoinette. Her younger sister was Indira Sundaram (née Sher-Gil), mother of the contemporary artist Vivan Sundaram.


Early life and education

Amrita Sher-Gil was born on January 30, 1913, in Budapest, Hungary [ [ The house Amrita Shergil was born in] ] , where she spent most of early childhood. In 1921 her family moved to Summer Hill, Shimla in India, and soon began learning piano and violin, and by age in nine she along with her younger sister Indira were giving concerts and acting in plays at Shimla's Gaiety Theatre at Mall Road, Shimla [ Amrita Shergill at sikh-heritage] ] . Though she was already painting since the age of five she formally started learning painting at age eight .


In 1923, Marie came to known an Italian sculpture, who was living at Shimla at the time; later in 1924 when he returned to Italy, Amrita's mother also moved to Italy along with Amrita, and got her enrolled at Santa Anunciata, an Art School at Florence, Italy Though Amrita didn't stay at this school for long, and returned to Indian in 1924, it was here that she was exposed to works of Italian masters [ Amrita Shergill Biography at] ] .

At sixteen, Sher-Gil sailed to Europe with her mother to train as a painter at Paris, first at the Grande Chaumiere under Pierre Vaillant and later at École des Beaux-Arts (1930-34) [ [ Archives 'Amrita Shergil' project]] [ [ Amrita Sher-Gil profile at] ] , she drew inspiration from European painters such as Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, while coming under the influence of her teacher Lucien Simon and the company of artist friends and lovers like Boris Tazlitsky. Her early paintings display a significant influence of the Western modes of painting, especially as being practised in the Bohemian circles of Paris in the early 1930s. In 1932, she made her first important work, "Young Girls" (see below), which led to her election as an Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris in 1933, making her the youngest ever [ [ Amrita Shergil at tate] ] and the only Asian to have received this recognition hence .

Return to India

By 1934, while in Europe she "began to be haunted by an intense longing to return to India,".. "feeling in some strange way that there lay my destiny as a painter", as she later wrote about her return to India. in the same year . Soon she began a rediscovery of the traditions of Indian art which was to continue till her death. She stayed at their family home at Summer Hill, Shimla, for a while, before leaving for travel, in 1936, at the behest of an art collector and critic, Karl Khandalavala, who encouraged her to pursue her passion for discovering her Indian roots [ Amrita Sher-Gil Exhibition at] ] ; subsequently she was greatly impressed and influenced by the Mughal and Pahari schools of painting and cave paintings at Ajanta Caves.

Later in 1937, she toured South India and produced the famous South Indian trilogy paintings, Bride's Toilet', 'Brahmacharis' and 'The South Indian Villagers' [ Amrita Shergill at] ] that reveal her passionate sense of colour and an equally passionate empathy for her Indian subjects, who are often depicted in their poverty and despair, by now the transformation in her work was complete and she had found her 'artistic mission', to express the life of Indian people through her canvas, as she herself admitted .

This was distinct from European phase, in the interwar years, when her work showed an engagement with the works of Hungarian painters, especially the Nagybanya school of painting, [ [ Daily Times, December 15, 2004] ] .

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, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, thus began her second phase in painting, which equals in its impact on Indian Modern Art, with likes of Rabindranath Tagore and Jamini Roy of Bengal school of art, as the 'Calcutta Group' of artists movement, which transformed it later, in a big way, was yet to start in 1943, and the 'Progressive Artist's Group', with Francis Newton Souza, Ara, Bakre, Gade, M. F. Husain and S. H. Raza among its founders, laid further ahead in 1948, Bombay [ [ Contemporary Art Movemnets in India]] [ [ Indian artists] ] .

In September 1941, the couple moved to Lahore, then in undivided India, and a major cultural and artistic centre. She lived and painted at 23 Ganga Ram Mansions, The Mall, Lahore, where her studio was reported to be on the top floor of the townhouse, she inhabited [ Amrita Shergil at] ] . She was also famous for her many affairs with both women and men .

In 1941, just days before the opening of her first major solo show in Lahore, she became seriously ill and slipped into a coma [ Laid bare - the free spirit of Indian art] The Daily Telegraph, February 24, 2007.] , and later died around midnight on December 6th, 1941, leaving behind a large volume of work, and a mystery behind the real reason for death has never been ascertained, something expected in view of the overly sensationalised accounts of Amrita's life in the words of her contemporaries. A failed abortion and subsequent peritonitis also have been suggested as the possible causes [Truth, Love and a Little Malice, An Autobiography by Khushwant Singh Penguin, 2003. ISBN 0143029576.] . She was cremated on December 7, 1941 at Lahore [!C2456EC670FCDC00!422.entry Hamari Amrita, March 2007] Khushwant Singh's Article on Amrita Shergill] .


The Government of India has declared her works as National Art Treasures , and most of them are housed in the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi [ [ Amrita Sher-Gil at] ] , and a postage stamp depicting her painting 'Hill Women' was released in 1978 in India [ [ Art on Indian Postage Stamps] ] , and a road in Lutyens' Delhi, was named after her, Amrita Shergill Marg.

Besides remaining an inspiration to many a contemporary Indian artists, in 1993, she also became the inspiration behind, the famous Urdu play, by Javed Siddiqi, 'Tumhari Amrita', starring Shabana Azmi and Farooq Shaikh [ [ The Hindu, Aug 13, 2006] ] .

Further reading

* "Amrita Sher-Gil", by Karl J. Khandalavala. New Book Co., 1945
* "Amrita Sher-Gil: Essays", by Vivan Sundaram, Marg Publications; New Delhi, 1972.
* "Amrita Sher-Gil", by Baldoon Dhingra. Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1981. ISBN 0861866444.
* "Amrita Sher-Gil and Hungary", by Gyula Wojtilla . Allied Publishers, 1981.
* "Amrita Sher-Gill: A Biography" by N. Iqbal Singh, "Vikas Publishing House Pvt.Ltd., India", 1984. ISBN 0706924746.
* "Amrita Sher-Gil: A personal view", by Ahmad Salim. Istaarah Publications; 1987.
* "Amrita Sher-Gil", by Mulk Raj Anand. National Gallery of Modern Art; 1989.
* "Amrita Shergil: Amrita Shergil ka Jivan aur Rachana samsar", by Kanhaiyalal Nandan. 2000.
* "Re-take of Amrita", by Vivan Sundaram. 2001, Tulika. ISBN 818522949X.
* "Amrita Sher Gill - A Painted Life" by Geeta Doctor, "Rupa" 2002, ISBN 817167688X.
* "Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life" by Yashodhara Dalmia, 2006. (ISBN 0-670-05873-4)
* "Amrita Sher-Gil: An Indian Artist Family of the Twentieth Century", by Vivan Sundaram, 2007, Schirmer/Mosel. ISBN 3829602707.

* "The Art of Amrita Sher-Gil", Series of the Roerich Centre of Art and Culture. Allahabad Block Works, 1943.
* "Sher-Gil, by Amrita Sher-Gil", Lalit Kala Akademi, 1965.

* "India’s 50 Most Illustrious Women" by Indra Gupta (ISBN 81-88086-19-3)
* "Famous Indians of the 20th Century" by Vishwamitra Sharma. Pustak Mahal, 2003, ISBN 8122308295.



External links


* [ "Amrita Sher-Gil" biography, articles and work] .
* [ - A Resource site on "Amrita Sher-Gil"]
* [ "Amrita Sher-Gil" Bio, Photos and Paintings]


* [ A slideshow of Amrita Sher-Gil's painting at Tate Modern]
* [ Amrita Sher-Gil exhibition] at Tate Modern, London

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