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Indian artists on foreign soil

Published: 29th Nov 2021 5:47 pm

Hyderabad: Several artists of India are credited with bringing great recognition to Indian art on a world platform. These artists also travelled and lived on foreign soil which culminated in some important phases. These journeys gave them an opportunity to get acquainted with western modernism, which eventually led to an evolution in their own artistic vocabulary and styles.

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Founder of the Progressive Artists Group, FN Souza is one of the Indian modernists who made a remarkable impact in the west. After studying at the Sir J.J. School of Art and founding the famed Bombay-based group, he moved to London in 1949 and initially struggled to make an impact as an artist there for a few years.

However, after the publication of his autobiographical essay ‘Nirvana of a Maggot’ in 1954, he came in touch with British collector Peter Watson and art dealer Victor Musgrave who organised his first one-man exhibition at Gallery One in London. It was a sell-out exhibition and he never had to look back again.

Revered artist SH Raza moved to Paris in 1950 after receiving a scholarship at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Gaining widespread recognition, he exhibited in many groups and solo shows in Paris. While in France, he also became the first non-French artist to be awarded Prix de la critique in 1956 which made him an overnight sensation in the European art scene.

The only sculptor of the group Sadanand Bakre went to Britain in 1951. However, while he was in London, he focussed on painting. He held several solo exhibitions while there, including a show at the Commonwealth Institute in 1951 and another exhibition at Gallery One in 1959.

Akbar Padamsee also moved to France to work and study. While there he was awarded a prize by eminent surrealist Andre Breton on behalf of the Journale d’Art. Padamsee’s first solo exhibition was also held in the same year at Galerie Saint Placide.

One of India’s more important abstractionists, Ram Kumar also spent time abroad. An economics graduate from Delhi University, Ram Kumar was employed at a bank and fell in love with art after visiting an exhibition in 1945. He travelled to Paris in 1948 where he met fellow artists SH Raza and Akbar Padamsee and studied under masters like Fernand Léger and Andre Lhote.

Jehangir Sabavala was another Indian artist who studied under cubist master Andre Lhote. After receiving his first diploma from Sir J.J. School of Arts, he pursued his further education in Europe, followed by a stint in Paris at the Academie Andre Lhote from 1948 to 1951.

One of the younger generation artists, Anjolie Ela Menon drew early influences from historic western artists such as Van Gogh and Modigliani. She had her first solo exhibition when she was merely 18. Initially studying at the Sir J.J. School of Arts, she moved to Europe in 1959 to study at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Art in Paris. During her stay, she travelled extensively in Europe exploring Romanesque and Byzantine art.

Artist Sakti Burman, who continues to shuttle between India and France, started his art education at the Government College of Arts and Crafts. He later travelled to Paris to study at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts. The artist also travelled to Italy in 1958 and was highly inspired by the frescoes of Giotto, Piero de la Francesca and Simone Martini.

Sunny Chandiramani

Photo captions:

Photo 1: SH RAZA, Lumière d’ete (Light Of Summer), Oil on canvas, 1958, 23.5 x 28.5 in.
Photo 2: Akbar Padamsee, Landscape, Oil on canvas, 1962, 36.2 x 23.6 in.

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