An Artist A Week: Amrita Sher-Gil

I have been reading about artists, typographers and graphic designers and gobbling up interviews, so I thought I might as well post it here. I hope to be able to interview some myself. ^^


“The quality of  in our country, particularly the apathetic attitude of the public towards the fostering of a cultural renaissance, is depressing.” – Amrita Sher-Gil, 1937, The Tribune


1936-Simla-Amrita-with-Chil1-620x450A gorgeous, enigmatic painter. Her work and her beauty continue to linger in public memory; if the number of website devoted to Amrita are anything to go by, she is far from forgotten.

She was born to a Sikh aristocrat father-Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia- and a Hungarian mother, Marie Antoniette Gottesmann. Paris was Amrita’s real introduction to the vibrant art scene in the “West”. She had been sketching and painting since she was a child, first in India and then in Hungary but she started training formally in painting at the age of eight, her primary influences derived from her experiences in Grande Chaumiere and  École des Beaux-Arts.

While still in Europe, she felt a longing to return to her Indian origin. Daily lives of Indian people and classical Indian style of art left a deep impression on her;  famous South Indian trilogy of paintings Bride’s Toilet, Brahmacharis, and South Indian Villagers Going to Market followed her visit to the Ajanta caves.

The South Indian Trilogy

The South Indian Trilogy

She was attracted to the poor, distressed and the deprived and her paintings of Indian villagers and women are a meditative reflection of their condition. Despite belonging to a family with close ties to the British, her paintings were even considered for use in the Congress propaganda for village reconstruction, at one point.


In 1941, just days before the opening of her first major solo show in Lahore, she became seriously ill and slipped into a coma, and later died around midnight on 6 December 1941, leaving behind a large volume of work, and the real reason for her death has never been ascertained. The day after her death England declared war on Hungary and her doctor husband Victor was sent to jail as an enemy national.

A whole generation of artists have drawn inspiration from Amrita: her grace, her work, her life and her conviction to employ art as an agent of 

Self Portrait as a Tahitian

Self Portrait as a Tahitian

Shout out to this post that gave me the idea!


Amrita Sher Gil: Noopur Tiwari, Tehelka

Amrita Sher-Gil on Wikipedia


6 thoughts on “An Artist A Week: Amrita Sher-Gil

  1. Definitely some one to look out for. I followed your links, but would like to see more examples of her work, as I love the small amount I’ve seen so far.

    She has what I would describe as a Vienna Secessionist feeling to her work, which shouldn’t be surprising given her background. But there is a very individual quality.

    Though I don’t have time to go through all the artists of the secessionist period, Gustav Klimt is probably the best known,

    As you probably already know, the movement sprang from art nouveau, and is related to a parallel movement in Scotland known as The Glasgow School, which flourished around the same time.
    Charles Rennie Mackintosh was regarded that movement’s leading light.

    Anyhow here is a link to some Vienna secession graphics: which I think might interest you.

    If you can post more links to Amrita Sher Gil works, I’d really appreciate it, as would my artist in residence and love of my life, Angelica Westerhoff.

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