Centennial exhibition celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Hungarian-Indian painter Amrita Sher-Gil birth

Monday, July 29, 2013

Amrita Sher-Gil's was born in 1913 in Budapest from a Hungarian mother and a Punjabi Sikh father. She spent her childhood in Hungary, then the family moved to Florence, and later traveled to Paris.

Her artistic career flourished in India, where she is revered as a major painter. She died tragically young, at the age of only 28 in 1941.

"I can paint only in India. Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse, Brague...but India belongs only to me ... " she wrote to one of her friends.

Among the European influences the Italian Renaissance, Brueghel, Paul Gauguin and Paul Cezanne effected her and the "Nagybánya" style of Hungarian painting. She always painted under natural light. She never allowed anyone to see her paintings before they have been fully completed. Her hot topics included depictions of girls and women of India, especially at work. She painted their beauty, their humbleness and their elegance.

She painted in a realist style - mainly because she learned this style, but her style changed in the mid-thirties -- her colors became richer.

Her husband was also Hungarian: she married to her first cousin, dr. Viktor Egan in 1938, and they moved to India.

In 1933 she was elected as one of the "Grand Salon" members, she was the youngest and is still the only Asian who's had that honor.

In her works the European style mixes with elements of traditional Indian painting. 2013 was designated Amrita Sher-Gil Year in India, an international celebration of her life and legacy. The exhibition in the Balatonfüred Vaszary Villa is part of that celebration.

The first part of the exhibition called 'Amrita Sher-Gil and Hungary' shows family photos, which are the legacy of her uncle, India explorer Ervin Baktay. It was her uncle who guided her niece's painting career since the early age and provided the necessary means for her studies. She started studying arts at the age of eight. It was her uncle who proposed to use her servants as models. These memories led Amrita back to India in 1921.

The collection of the Balatonfüred exhibition were selected from works Amrita Sher-Gil painted while stayed in Hungary or paintings depict themes related to Hungary. Also this section of the exhibition shows objects belonged to the artist's family. The third part of the exhibition shows Amrita Sher-Gil's Indian jewelry, and her personal items. The exhibition is open until September 1.

She influenced many Indian artists. The Indian government declared her works as a national treasure, and most of her works are in the collection of the New Delhi National Gallery of Modern Art. In 1978, one of her paintings "Mountain Women" was chosen as the topic of a postage stamp. In Delhi a street was named after her. An Urdu play celebrates her life. Her works inspired a contemporary novel as well, which is a great success.

(MTI –


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