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The Life and Work of Indian Artist Amrita Sher-Gil

Review 2006 / 2007

Les Rencontres D'Arles Photographie

03 juillet - 16 septembre 2007

Exhibition Place: Espace Van Gogh, aile sud

Umrao Singh Sher-Gil is the father of painter Amrita Singh Sher-Gil, one of the pioneering figures of pictorial modernism in India. Destined for great success, she died prematurely in 1941, aged barely 28. Her father, a great photography enthusiast, had as his main subject his family (his Hungarian wife, his two daughters Amrita and Indira, and himself).

By photographing them as he does, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil constituted albums of outstanding documentary quality on the life of an Indo-European family in the first half of the 20th century. Amrita's premature death, followed by his wife's suicide several years later, lent his face a sadness that is tangible in his portraits, and gives these family albums a faint sense of pathos.

Exhibition organised with the collaboration of Vivan Sundaram and Photo Ink. Text by Deepak Ananth.

Tate Modern

An Exhibition at the Tate Modern, London 2007

This exhibition explored the life and work of Indian artist Amrita Sher-Gil.

A new exhibition at Tate Modern 2007 looked at the paintings of Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941), who's been called India's Frida Kahlo. Sher-Gil was just 28 when she died but was already recognised as one of India's most important artists.

Curated by Emma Dexter, Ann Coxon and Matthew Gale

Organised in collaboration with the Haus der Kunst, Munich; the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi;
and the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, New Delhi.

Free Entry

"Amrita Sher-Gil's vibrant canvasses and her short but dynamic life have established her as one of India's most celebrated modern artists. Born in Budapest in 1913, to a Hungarian mother and Sikh father, she trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where she became influenced by Realism. Upon returning to India, she adopted this modernist approach to portray the poor and yet colourful lives of local people, making her art a true fusion of east and west. This eye-opening display presents several of her vivid paintings, alongside revealing photomontages by her nephew, Vivan Sundaram."

Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913 to a Hungarian mother and a Sikh father. Her early childhood was spent mostly in Hungary, and in 1921 the family moved to India, where she began her schooling. At the age of sixteen, Amrita was admitted to the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris.The five years that she spent in Paris were a period of experimentation, of trying on different personae and exploring her own hybrid identity. Sometimes wearing western clothing and sometimes wearing a sari, Sher-Gil was fully aware of her 'exotic' beauty.

Her early work often reflected the academic style in which she was trained. However, she also began to experiment with ways of representing the non-western body in paintings such as Sleep (1933), which depicts her younger sister Indira. She admired Paul Gauguin's depictions of the South Sea Islands and his stylistically simplified, yet symbolically charged Tahitian nudes. Gauguin's influence became explicit in Self Portrait as Tahitian (1934), in which Sher-Gil appears naked to the waist, in a three-quarter profile and looking beyond the frame of the picture.

Source: Tate Modern

Amrita Sher-Gil, One of India's Most Significant Artists

Film about Amrita Sher-Gil

In this film about Amrita Sher-Gil, her nephew, Vivan Sundaram, an artist in his own right, talks about her legacy.

Film "Amrita Sher-Gil, a Family Album", Navina Sundaram

The film playing here Amrita Sher-Gil, a Family Album, is a personal account of the life and work of the painter made by Navina Sundaram, Amrita's niece and Vivan's sister. Using old photographs, letters, diary entries and newspaper cuttings as well as stories that her mother told her, Navina Sundaram investigates the art and life of Amrita Sher-Gil from her perspective as both a journalist and a family member.

'Indian belongs only to me ...'

Haus der Kunst München 2006 / 2007

"Europe belongs to picasso, matisse and braque and many others. india belongs only to me."

Amrita Sher-Gil, 1938

The exhibition tells the story of an Indian artist family of three generations by uniting the paintings of Amrita Sher-Gil with the photographs of her father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, and the digitally worked photographs of her nephew, Vivan Sundaram. The three positions demonstrate how the perception of identity through self-determination has changed since the late colonial period. The works also serve as convincing examples of the non-concurrent development of modernity and modernism in Europe and India and thus also for the concept of a multiple modern.

Amrita Sher-Gil, Sleep, 1932. Oil on canvas- National Gallery of Modern Art, Neu Delhi © Copyright the artist: Amrita Sher-Gil
Amrita Sher-Gil, Sleep, 1932. Oil on canvas- National Gallery of Modern Art, Neu Delhi © Copyright the artist: Amrita Sher-Gil
Schirmer / Mosel Verlag
Bloomberg TateShots ©  Tate Modern
Bloomberg TateShots © Tate Modern
Tate Modern
London 2007
Vivan Sundaram, Father – Daughter from the series Retake of Amrita 2001 © Vivan Sundaram
Vivan Sundaram, Father – Daughter from the series Retake of Amrita 2001 © Vivan Sundaram