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There is poetry in every artists’ life, in their struggles, in their downfall, in their spur, in their accomplishments, in their failures, in their despair, in their mannerism, and in their story. Being an artist is a self-taken choice that has its repercussions and consequences along with its rewards and wins. Still, the choice is taken by the Bravehearts who dare to walk out of the crowd because they believe they can shape their imagination into words, paintings, songs, videos, dance, etc. The journey of an artist can be full of ups & downs, success & failures, good & bad decisions, but it cannot be one thing; monotonous or boring.

Everyone in this entire world wanted to be an artist of any genre at some point in his/her life (or maybe you still do), however, walking in the shoes of Picasso and Monet is not everyone’s cup of team. Sad thing is, not every artist becomes famous and very few who are able to make a name for themselves are often forgotten in the sands of time. Today, I am hence, going to talk about some illustrious painters India has produced throughout the history of time. But before we start the discussion, let’s take a quick peek at the relation between India and art:

India and Art

The spectra of art in India is as extensive as the history of this great nation. India, South-East Asia’s giant is famed for the richness and versatility it holds in its cultural patrimony. The exquisite cave art and frescos of Ajanta and Ellora tells a tale of artistry excellence that resided in India around 2 thousand years ago. Want to go further in past? Check out the cave paintings of Bhimbetka rock shelters (Madhya Pradesh) that has more than 500 ancient and pre-ancient artworks. Some of the paintings of these caves are estimated to be 15000 years old. That’s just an anticipation.

Coming to the ancient period, murals, cave art, and frescos were developed in different regions of India. The Gandhara School of Sculpture and the Mahayana School of Buddhism existed around between 50 B.C. and 500 A.D. Along with this, Mathura School of Art also played an eminent role in solidifying the stature of Indian art. Then there was Gupta Art (prominent during the Maurya rule). Post this, there was a dominant Rajput Art era from 600 A.D. to 900 A.D. Several other artistic enchantments flourished in Orissa, Khajuraho, Rajasthan, and Madhya Bharat, Gujarat and Kathiawar, Chola and Hoysala of Deccan and Vrindavan.

The medieval epoch saw the rise of Mughals in India. Although a lot of great artistic monuments were destroyed when Mughals invaded India, art survived. Mughals themselves were greatly fond of paintings and they were the ones who made the fusion of Indian and Persian art. Mural and miniature paintings thrived in India during this time period and continued to flourish until the British rule. 

Unfortunately, no names of great artists ever bloomed or popularised during these time periods. It was so because traditional art was only accessible by the elites of the society and the artists were never given the due accolades.

With the industrial revolution in France, things started to change for artists and the art world across the globe. Even India was not spared from this transformation and suddenly a number of artists appeared and made a great contribution to the art sector. Some of these artists were active in the 19th century while a majority of these shined in the 20th century. Now, if you want to look at the famous Indian artists and their paintings, it will take you around 5 – 10 minutes maximum (on the web).

But there are few of the artists that laid a firm foundation on which today’s art of India stands comfortably.

Here are few masters of paintings that have made India proud owing to their skill and talent:

1.    Raja Ravi Varma

When we talk about the famous painters of India, Raja Ravi Varma leads the list. Also termed as the “Father of Indian Modern Art”, Varma was the very first artist from this great nation who earned notable stature and appreciation at a global level. 

Raja Ravi Varma - famous painters of india

Raja Ravi Varma

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Being a child of a writer mother and scholar father, it was no surprise that Varma had a keen interest in painting since a tender age. He was born to Umamba Thampuratti and Neelakanthan Bhattatiripad in the princely state of Kilimanoor (Kerala) in 1948. He was seven only when he indicated that an intense artist resided inside of him.

A young Varma started to paint exquisite depictions of mundane objects like animals, routines of people, etc on the walls of his home. When he was 14 only, he moved to Thiruvananthapuram, to avail coaching in water painting from Rama Naidu, his palace painter.

During his training, he stayed at Kilimanoor Palace, where he actually blossomed as an artist. Initially, Varma rejected the conventional paints and created his art using natural ingredients from leaves, flowers, tree bark, etc, but soon he started using oil paints.

The time period of 1870 – 1878 saw a number of aesthetic creations from Varma, which includes portraits of elitists and British officials. This was the span when Raja Ravi Varma gained the stature of a renowned portrait painter. In 1873, his paintings were exhibited in an illustrious exhibition in Vienna where he bagged three awards, making him the first Indian artist to achieve such a feat. To your surprise, Varma’s creation ‘Radha in the Moonlight’ was sold at an auction for INR 24 crore. The painting was created by Varma in 1890. 

famous indian painters and their paintings

Shakuntala’ by Raja Ravi Varma

Varma, in most of his creations, focused on the beauty of South Indian Women and a good part of his paintings’ theme revolved around the same. However, it was Varma’s artwork on religious topics that gained him accolades at the global level. Varma won his first prize at the Madras painting exhibition and in the year 1893, this impeccable artist’s work was sold at World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Raja Ravi Varma was one of the most famous painters of India and the very first of his kind to gain a global fame. For his contribution to art, then Viceroy Lord Curzon bestowed him with the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal.

A lot of people in those times, especially the folks from Bengal School of Art opposed Raja Ravi
Varma because of his inspiration from western art styles. In reality, Varma did learn and adopted the European techniques but each of his paintings was a pure depiction of Indian soul and heritage. In fact, I personally admire Varma most, because he was the first India artist who brought art closer to the masses and not just the selected section of society. Varma’s most of the early creations were focused for the commoners and even in his later stage of life, all his creations were meant to make common people recognize the essence of art. India, no doubt, will be in debt to Raja Ravi Varma for his contribution and learnings to art.

2.    Amrita Sher-Gil

Indians are always amongst the ones who change things. Adding to the list is one of the pioneers of modern art who has in her short-career and life has influenced millions of art lovers across the world and even resume to do the same today. Her name is Amrita Sher-Gil. The flamboyant, the lit, the courageous, the thinker, the epitome of pure talent, and the one who became the first woman artist (and only Asian artist till date) in the entire world to win a gold medal in Paris. 

Amrita Sher-Gil - famous painters of india

Amrita Sher-Gil

Born to a Sikh aristocrat (who was also a scholar) and a Hungarian-Jewish opera Singer (her mother) in Budapest, Hungary in the year 1913, Amrita-Sher Gil spent most of her childhood there only. But destiny had something else written for her. Her family moved to Shimla, India, in the year 1921 where Amrita did complete her education.

As a toddler, when Amrita was merely 5 years old, she picked up the brush and started a formal painting lesson at the age of eight. No doubt, art was Amrita’s soul and to complete that void, she moved to Paris along with her mother at the Grande Chaumiere under Pierre Vaillant and Lucien Simon and later at École des Beaux-Arts. Amrita was stumped by the work of European artists like Paul Cézanne and Paul Gaugin. 

famous paintings of indian artists

‘Young Girls’ by Amrita Sher-e-Gil

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It was the year 1932 when she brushed down one of her finest creations named ‘Young Girls’, which led her to the nomination for the Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris in 1933. Amrita still holds the record for the youngest artist and only Asian to win this honour. Like a free bird that cannot be caged away from its nest, Amrita was constantly haunted by the thoughts of going back to India. It was a mystical intuition of Amrita that her destiny was waiting for her in India and nowhere else.  As per Amrita, Europe belonged to prominent names like Matisse, Picasso, Braque, etc, whereas, she belonged to India.

At a young age of 28, Amrita left this world. Her death was quite mysterious and the reasons are still unknown.

The work of Amrita was heavily impacted by realism and mainly revolved around the people living in her community. She was obsessed by the wall artworks of India and was a fan of the vivacious oil painting techniques. The oeuvre of her paintings reflected a pleasing confluence of western and eastern culture and art styles.

Because of her affluent family background, she was quite emotional about the oppressing situation of women in India. She always wanted to encourage women to play a vital role in art and possess a spirit of rebel against social evils. Her paintings mainly depicted the routine lives of Indian women by reflecting a sense of despair and loneliness.

For her short-lived but influential life, Amrita is considered as one of the illustrious women artists of the 20th century and is famed as the ‘Frida Kahlo of India’. Her Untitled self-portrait was sold at Sotheby’s in New York (2015) for INR 21 crores.

3.    V.S.Gaitonde

There are artists who love to go on the stage and bow down to the crowd, who are equally expressive in their dialogue as in their art, who are known by the world and who have their names on every prominent lists of affluent personalities and there is V.S.Gaitonde whose untitled painting got sold at Christie’s for INR 29 crores (a record for most expensive sold work of Indian artist) and still people don’t know much about him.

Often regarded as the painter of silence, V.S.Gaitonde is undoubtedly the ‘Goat’ of Indian modern art movement. We all know the famous Indian painters and their paintings and yet we all know very less about Gaitonde. 

V.S.Gaitonde - famous painters of india

V.S.Gaitonde

Source: Christie’s

Vasudeo S Gaitonde was born in Nagpur, Maharashtra in the year 1924. One of India’s greatest abstract artists and the recipient of Padma Shri, Gaitonde did his graduation from J.J.School of Art, Bombay (Mumbai). He was also one of the first six members of Progressive Artists’ Group of India. Gaitonde was not fond of words. This was evident in his work as most of his paintings are untitled.

Unlike the other artists who struggled hard to accomplish fame, Gaitonde was a simple man. His forte was art, not the fame that follows it. He never lived in a bungalow or a villa or a luxurious apartment, even though he could have. When he was creating his most ecstatic and exclusive work, Gaitonde preferred living in a one-room rental apartment in Delhi’s Nizamuddin East. 

famous indian artists and their paintings

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924-2001), Untitled, 1996

Source: Christie’s

A follower of Zen Buddhism, Gaitonde was no ordinary man in his thoughts. He was a small man, but had unshakable confidence and not a hint of ego at the same time. Gaitonde is often described by his peers and friends as a man of few words but of maximum expression. He detached himself from his family at a young age and was soundly fascinated by Zen Buddhism.

This part of his interview with the journalist Pritish Nandy in 1991 reveals a great deal about him,

“Everything starts from silence. The silence of the brush. The silence of the canvas. The silence of the painting knife. The painter starts by absorbing all these silences. You are not partial in the sense that no one part of you is working there. Your entire being is.”

It was his courage and new thinking that compelled him to get himself away from the nationalist theme in the 1950s and become a pure abstract artist. 

Astonishingly, though he was an Indian, because of his silent approach, not many here knew about him. However, in the western nation, Gaitonde started gaining attention. In 1959, he held a solo exhibition at the well-known Graham gallery and one at Willard in 1965. Amidst this, Gaitonde was an active participant in several art conventions and exhibitions in New York and Venice Biennale (1962). In 1964, he was the proud recipient of a grant from Rockefeller fund and the same year, his work, ‘Painting No.4’ was availed by the Modern Museum of Modern Art and included in the exhibition of recently acquired artworks.

The demise of Gaitonde occurred at a time (2001) when the Western world was finally showing enthusiasm in Asian artworks. He was an extraordinary soul and in actual meaning a modern abstractionist. His loss will be felt forever and the void he left probably won’t find another of his kind to fill up in the Indian art world again.  

4.   S.H.Raza

Born in Babaria (now Madhya Pradesh) in 1922, Syed Haider Raza was one of the pillars of the foundation of Indian Modern Art. He lived most of life in France since 1950 while keeping a close relationship with India. 

Syed Haider Raza - famous painters of india

Syed Haider Raza

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As a young man, Raza moved to Bombay (Mumbai) to join J.J.School of Art but failed to do so. To earn his living, Raza joined a block maker’s studio. It was here that Raza started painting some extraordinary paintings depicting the scenes that were visible from his window. He was young, he was a newbie, but his paintings always reflected the maturity in the comprehension of art. The blissfulness and the enchantment of his work were such that soon enough people started giving attention to this first-string artist. He was amongst the founding members of Progressive Artists’ Group along with some eminent personalities. 

The division of India and Pakistan had a deep impact on Raza. His family left for Pakistan but Raza’s heart and his vision was more syncretic to persist. So he stayed in India. That left a crater in his heart that could be seen sometimes in his work. The spiritual depth and the idiosyncratic expression that he poured in his paintings always reflected his undying fidelity towards India.

Raza moved to France in 1950 and was planning to study art in Mecca but fate decided something else for him. Instead, he stayed in France for a few decades. He married artist Janine Mongillat and soon enough he started to mark his unparalleled presence on the international art market.

By 1970s, Raza was not so content with his own creations and was in the pursuit of a fresh and a much profound approach to create art. Raza was not a big fan of what is known as ‘plastic art’, which shows his crystal understanding of art. To explore the diversity and to bring more credibility to his creations, Raza took multiple trips to the destinations like Ajanta, Ellora, Banaras, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. What he found was that the in-depth understanding of Indian culture revolved around ‘Bindu’. This was a turning point in Raza’s career and a new painter was born inside him.

Raza’s work whirled around the idea of ‘Bindu’ (a dot), that he considered is the source of all energy and creation. Bindu holds an extensive Indian philosophical apprehension, which revolves around the principles that are thousands of year old. Raza was always fascinated with the roots of his nation, culture, and beliefs. His paintings after the discovery and acceptance of ‘Bindu’ were made with newer dimensions that brought an untrodden life to his limited subject matters and thematic body of work. Raza also developed some mesmerising paintings with the theme swirling around Tribhuj or Triangle. These works were mainly focused on cementing the Indian religious theories of space & time and the concept of male & female energy. This completely transmogrifies the genre of Raza from an expressionist to a crackerjack of abstraction and wisdom. 

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‘Saurashtra’ by S.H.Raza

Source: WIKIART

After the demise of his wife in 2010, Raza returned to India in 2011. He settled in New Delhi and despite all the health adversities Raza continued to paint exquisite artworks. Raza’s one of the most exclusive works, ‘Saurashtra’ was sold in Christie’s auction in South Kensington for a whopping 25 crore INR. Raza made this painting in 1983.  He left this world in the year 2016 at the age of 94.

Raza was a recipient of Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, and Padma Bhushan, the second, third, and the fourth highest civilian award in India. In addition to this, Raza was also bestowed with the Commandeur de la Legion d'honneur (Legion of Honour), the highest French civilian honour in 2015.

5.    Tyeb Mehta

If you would ask the famous Indian painters of today about their inspiration, a majority of them would take Tyeb’s name. Known as the Bacon of India, Tyeb Mehta’s name stand tall amongst the most notable Indian artists of the 20th century. He was an ordinary man with extraordinary artistic skill and talent. When Mehta died in 2009, then Prime Minister of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh gave his condolence message saying, “a major loss to the art world”. 

Tyeb Mehta - famous painters of india

Tyeb Mehta

Source: Wiki

Tyeb Mehta was born in 1925 in Kapadvanj, Gujarat, and spent most of childhood in the Crawford market locality of Bombay (Mumbai). As a young chap (22), Mehta saw the partition riots in India. He witnessed a man being stoned to death by a mob in Bombay, which created an irretrievable impact on him. His paintings showed the disaster in a quite expressive and bold manner. For some reason, the paintings of this Padma Bhushan awardee were quite depressing in aesthetics.

Being a versatile man, Tyeb also worked as a film editor in a cinema laboratory at Famous Studios (Bombay) in his early days. Like the other prominent personalities in the Indian art sector, Tyeb also completed his graduation from J.J.School of Art (1952) and was one of the co-founders of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group. He conducted his first solo exhibition in 1959. Soon after this, he left for London and stayed there till 1964.

Those who knew Tyeb stated him as a quiet and down-to-earth man. He led a simple life in Bombay. One of the best works of Mehta was ‘Mahisasura’, a depiction of mythological Hindu buffalo-demon being defeated by the Goddess Durga. This creation stirred the Indian art lovers and was sold at the Christie’s auction for INR 11 crore in 2005. The purchase was historical because it was the first time any contemporary Indian art piece crossed the million dollar mark. It was also the announcement of surging interest of Westerners in Indian art pieces. 

famous painters and their paintings

‘Mahisasura’ by Tyeb Mehta

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It won’t be wrong to say that this purchase highlighted him as a saviour and hero of the Indian art world. Mehta became a national celebrity. The real beauty of Tyeb’s paintings was the expression of conversation each work was trying to promote. He himself believed in speaking less and hearing more and same was reflected in each of his masterpieces. Unlike many famous painters of India who produced stacks of work in a year, Tyeb believed in perfection. His slow, meticulous, and alluring paintings were not made in one try. He was his own critic. Before he finalised one work, he would tear apart many pieces just to make sure he reaches that felicity of creating something amazing.

Critics have always said that Tyeb’s work was centric to the illustration of martyrs because of which he was able to attain an apex level of stardom. IMHO, even if he had taken that approach, the end result that he accomplished was nothing more than a pure representation of abstraction, pulchritude, and prudence that made him deserve fame. His main inspiration came from the pieces of Francis Bacon.

What was more inspiring was that a major chunk of his life, he earned only an average income and his wife had to work to support the family. But as they said, gold coins cannot be ignored for too long. In 1968, Tyeb won his first gold medal at the first Triennial in New Delhi and the prestigious Prix Nationale at the International Festival of Painting in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France.

“I have always been a loner, and am still quite a bit of a recluse. My happiest moments are spent with myself and my art.”

Tyeb Mehta in an interview in 2006

6.    Ram Kumar

Destiny is mysterious, otherworldly, and ambiguous despite the definitiveness it holds within. Your fate could take you to places you could never imagine. That’s what happened to Padmashree and Padma Bhushan awardee artist Ram Kumar. He was a banker and a writer, but above all, he was a first-string abstract artist of profound occult cogitation.  

Ram Kumar - famous painters of india

Ram Kumar

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Born in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh in 1924, Ram Kumar was an economics graduate. His first encounter with art happened when he was doing M.A. in Economics from St. Stephens College, New Delhi and he landed up in an art exhibition near Connaught Place in 1945. That first encounter with artworks changed his life forever. He could not help but go back to these sorts of art exhibitions again and again.

He got a reputable job in a bank, which he left in 1948. He took classes at Sharda Ukil School of art. The life of Ram Kumar was predestined as once in an art exhibition he met S.H. Raza and become good friends with him. It was Raza who actually convinced Ram’s father to send him to Paris under Andre Lohte and Fernand Leger. From there, Ram Kumar never looked back.

During that time, Paris was filled with the voice of Pacificist peace movement that fascinated Ram Kumar immensely. So, Ram joined the French Communist Party. 

In 1952, Ram Kumar moved back to his roots, India. He was an excellent observer. That was the time when India won its independence and the new nation was slowly learning to stand on its leg again. Last time India was free, the demographics were quite different from this span. Ram Kumar captured the ragged cityscapes, the gloomy nights of loneliness that youths spend in the city. His paintings reflected the desolate expression of youth with grim reflection and somber eyes that showed absolute emotion of commoners in those times.

However, the ecstasy of these works doesn’t lie in the poignancy but the mastery with which Ram placed the figures in his artworks. His paintings clearly showed the badly built houses, with crooked streets, and hanging cables representing the hardship of commoners. He also visited Varanasi and depicted the city with an exquisite finesse of artistry. 

indian painting

‘Vagabond’ by Ram Kumar

Source: Christie’s

But again, fate played its part and Ram Kumar moved from figurative art to abstraction. That was the time when he transformed in a much-evolved artist as there was no restriction and limits under which he had to work. He realised that the epic level of freedom that he can apply on the compositions can transform his imagination into something more artistic.

An internationally acclaimed and an aesthetic contemporary artist, Ram Kumar was also a writer. But, one can say that the more he indulged himself into the world of art, the lesser he felt the need for words to express his emotions. Apart from being a superb observer, Ram Kumar was also an empathetic person who felt the pain and agony of the common people and reflected the same on canvas quite meticulously. One of his majestic creations, ‘Vagabond’ was sold at Christie’s for a massive $1.1 million. 

7.    Francis Newton Souza

While most of the artists focus on showcasing the beauty of subjects in their creations, there are very few who have the spunk to reflect the ugliness of society. Meet the bohemian, a zealot, an antagonist (to many), the barefaced, and a remarkable sophist of the 20th century, Mr. Francis Newton Souza

Francis Newton Souza - famous painters of india

Francis Newton Souza

Source: Engrave

Born in Saligao, Goa, in 1924, Francis Newton Souza belonged to a Roman Catholic family. He was one of the profound co-founders of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group. He was a restless person who always thought that an artist’s responsibility is to not just reflect the serene beauty and the aesthetics trait of our world but also to depict the hideousness and the monstrousness that persist in our society.

When he was 5, his family moved to Bombay (Mumbai), where Souza fell severely ill with a ferocious attack of smallpox. Souza survived but got a scared face for life. His mother added the name Francis in the honour of the St. Francis after the incident.

As a student, Souza was not a sheep in the herd. He was the odd one, the misfit, the one who doesn’t want to obey the laws and the one true genius.  

He attended St. Xavier’s College and was expelled from the same for making a graffiti in a toilet. Souza claimed he was just revamping the graffiti, but no one heard his proposition. 

Souza also attended the J.J.School of Art, Bombay from which he was expelled after his active participation in the Quit India Movement. Well, Souza was never a puppet, he was the director.

As a result, in 1947, Souza, with a view to encouraging Indian artists to show their talent on the international platform, founded Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group. Souza was in fact, the first Indian artist post-independence, to have his work showcased in western exhibitions. After his paintings were displayed at an exhibition in London’s Burlington House in 1948, he moved to London in 1949.

The initial period of Souza was not easy as a painter, so he had to make his earning using his other talent; writing. He started working as a journalist. Souza was a treasure of talent and artistic competence, it was hard to ignore such a gem for too long.

In the year 1954, Souza’s work was shown at an exhibition in The Institute of Contemporary Arts. But Souza was not easy to be content. He wrote an excellent autobiographical essay named, ‘Nirvana of Maggot’ in Stephen Spender’s Encounter Magzine that gained Souza an immense attention and recognition in London. A tale of greatness was on the right path. Soon enough Spender made Souza meet the owner of Gallery One, Victor Musgrave.
An exhibition of Souza’s work was conducted in 1955 and astonishingly all his paintings were sold out.

It won’t be wrong to say that only a few Indian artists were influential in the European art community and Souza is on the top of that list. Not many knew, but it was Souza that brought together the likes of Raza, Husain, Bakre, Mehta, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna, KH Ara, and Akbar Padamsee to constitute the famous Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group. 

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‘Birth’ by F.N.Souza

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In 1967, Souza moved to New York but while he was travelling from one nation to another, his love and attachment with India never got weakened.  From the initial days, Souza was not a keen follower of the conventions that already existed. He always believed that as an artist there shouldn’t be any set rules to develop paintings. His paintings were disturbing to some while eye-opening to others. But nothing could distract Souza from developing some of the best modern abstract work of the 20th century. Being a follower of Picasso, his paintings were abstract but still relatable to most of the people quite easily. And maybe that’s why a lot of people actually got offended with his works. Especially his depiction of distorted heads and disoriented portraits were one of a kind. His creations were somehow inspired by the Goa’s folk art too. 

Souza is the only Indian artist who has a separate room solely for his paintings in London’s Tate Modern. John Berger, the prominent art critic always loved Souza. Souza was an artist who swims across the rivers of different religions but stayed at none. None of Souza’s painting could be called graceful but the level of imagination and creative vision he held was simply phenomenal.

Souza’s one of the best works, ‘Birth’, was sold for INR 11.3 crores at Christie’s in 2008 and in 2015 was resold for a staggering price of INR 28.76 crores.

8.    M.F.Husain

I have saved the best for the last. If anyone deserves to be called ‘The Godfather of Contemporary Indian Art’, none other than the prodigious, the sensational, the sui-generis, and the swashbuckling Maqbool Fida Husain comes to my mind. He was a complete artist who dared to step out of the ‘good artist’ image and exposed the caustic, funny, serious, and sombre appeal in his paintings. 

M.F.Husain - famous painters of india

M.F.Husain

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If you would Google famous paintings of Indian artists, Husain’s work are displayed most in numbers.

M.F.Husain was born at Pandarpur, in a Sulayamani family, in 1915. His childhood was not as easy as of any of the famous painters of India mentioned above. He was from a poor family and lost his mother when he was merely 2 years old. With little aid, he actually taught himself how to paint. As a child, when he was taking his lessons in a Madraasa in Baroda, he developed a deep interest in calligraphy. He did his graduation from J.J. School of Art Bombay (Mumbai). He was a free soul who was determined to find his way out of an ordinary life to a flashy and fame filled life on his own. Early in his days, he started his artistic career by paintings the cinema posters in Bombay. He also worked in a toy company to earn some extra bucks. Husain used to make frequent trips to Gujarat to paint landscaped whenever his pocket allowed him to do so. 

During the 1930s, he nourished his painting proficiency when he painted the billboards for the Bollywood industry. Husain, like Souza, was a subverter who wanted to free artists from the nationalist’s conventions that were incepted by the Bengal School of Art and wished to bring Indian artists on the international stage.  The partition of India and the independence made a deep impact on Husain’s soul, even though he looked it as an opportunity to spur the Modern Art in the nation. Suddenly, the style and thinking of Husain were not vague and raw, instead, his ideology was welcomed. His work was heavily influenced by Cubism. He was asked by several entities and individuals to settle outside India but he refused to do so. Husain was a true Indian, who always loved and respected the tradition, culture, beliefs, and conundrums of Indian soil.

The biggest ambition of Husain was to be more proliferant that Picasso. His idea of paintings was to be something similar to transcription, a desire to quench the thirst of pouring out the inner visions on canvas using colours and patterns. His works were largely inspired from the religious epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The artistic mastery of Husain can be seen in one of his most legendary depictions ‘Ganga and Jamuna’, an impeccable creation that fetched INR 11.5 crore in Christie’s auction. 

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‘Five Horses’ by M.F.Husain

Source: Tal lenge Store

Husain was no less an Indian than you and me. It was just that his contemporary take on Hindu deities was wrongly comprehended by the conservative masses who castigate his work. The criticism and the protest were such that Husain was forced to leave India and flee to Qatar. 

Amidst all the controversies and headlines, the life of Husain was one hell of a ride. His creations were displayed and gained attention on several international stages. Several paintings of his were sold at more than a million dollar mark. European and American media even stepped up to call Husain as ‘Picasso of India’. IMHO, he was the ‘Husain of India’. He was unique, he was patriotic, he thought differently, he saw things with several perspectives, and he was deeply attached to our roots.

Indian art community treats the paintings of Husain in the same league as the work of Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne. He had a bold and vivacious personality that was clearly seen spirited colours and free thinking brush strokes in his creations. People tried to chain him as per their conventions and mannerism, but Husain broke the shackles and developed a unique and captivating style of his own. Ironically, though Husain loved India intensely, in his last years, he was forced to live in exile. May his soul rest in peace today as Indian art will always remember the saga of a patriotic artist who was made to leave his nation because people were not capable of understanding what he was trying to show.

 

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