Amritha Shergill (1913 - 1941): Hundredth birth anniversary of this renowned painter is celebrated today. The sketch of life that follows is from the site: http://www.itasveer.com/artsmart/top-10-painters-of-india/achievements-of-amrita-shergill and it provides a factual account of her life and contributions. She excels in painting women in melancholic mood.
Achievements of Amrita ShergillThe name ‘Amrita Shergill’ stands out prominently amongst the modern painters of India. She was the youngest and only Asian artist to be elected as an Associate of the Grand Salon, Paris. She was the 'most expensive' Indian woman painter as well. Amrita is sometimes also known as India’s Frida Kahlo. She was very much influenced by the impressionists. She altered the face of Asian art and set a course for women artists. Her works echo the beauty and brilliance she possessed. In the following account, you will find the achievements of Amrita Shergill painted in various shades.
Early Life of Amrita ShergillAmrita Shergill was born in Budapest, Hungary on 30th January, 1913 to Umrao Singh Shergill Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and a Sanskrit and Persian scholar and Marie Antoinette Gottesmann, a Jewish Opera singer from Hungary. As her life unfolds, we come to know that she spent most of early childhood in Budapest. She was the niece of Indologist Ervin Baktay. He guided her and gave her an academic foundation to develop on.
Education of Amrita ShergillIn 1921, her family shifted from Hungary to Shimla. There Amrita developed an interest in the art of painting. Thus, she took tuitions from an Italian sculptor in Shimla. When in 1924, her teacher moved back to Italy, Amrita and her mother also followed him. In Italy, she joined Santa Anunciata, a Roman Catholic institute.
Amrita Shergil received exposure there to the works of the Italian masters, which furthered fanned her interest in painting. She received formal training of painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, under Lucien Simon. At that time, she was deeply influenced by some European painters. Her paintings mirror a strong influence of the Western modes of painting.
Career of Amrita ShergillAmrita Shergil returned to India in 1934 and since then, began her never-ending journey in the field of Indian art traditions. In India Mughal miniatures schools and Ajanta paintings had a great impact on her. When she journeyed to the southern parts of India, the famous South-Indian trilogy paintings came into being by her brush and paint. She evolved her own distinctive style. According to her, it was basically Indian in spirit, subject, and technical articulacy. Now, her paintings took the villagers, the poor and beggars as subjects.
Famous Paintings by Amrita ShergillAmrita Shergill’s gangling and sharp figures of the poor are cloaked in homespun materials. They look flimsy and forlorn. Perhaps, reflecting her inner glum. The originality and uniqueness of Ajanta and Ellora, the sumptuous murals at the Mattancheri Palace in Cochin and the power of the Kushan sculpture she saw at Mathura, portray her work. She became familiar with Indian miniatures and adored the passionate Basohli School. She attempted to embrace some elements of Rajput painting in her later works, with feeling and flamboyance.
One of her early paintings ‘The Torso’ was a skillful study of an undressed which was known for its intelligence of drawing and bold modeling. Amrita completed ‘Young Girls’ in 1933. During her time, India was just coming out of the Purdah age, obligatory during the Muslim rule. So, great courage was required to paint nudes and this she did boldly and beautifully. She was a non-conformist. She painted herself gracefully in the nude. These paintings are today’s art treasures. In the negotiation, she blazed a radical trail which has served as a guiding light to other Indian painters.
It is said that she didn’t identify with the national struggle for independence. The reason can be perhaps, she didn’t know that she would not live long enough to witness how soon that power would revivify Indian art.
Awards, Achievements and LegacyAmrita Shergill was amongst the most gifted Indian artists of the pre-colonial era. Her works reproduce her unfathomable passion and sense for colors. Her profound understanding of the Indian subjects can also be seen in her paintings.
The Government of India declared her illustrious works as National Art Treasures. The National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi is adorned by a majority of Amrita’s paintings. Also, there is a road known as the Amrita Shergill Marg in Lutyen's Delhi.
A postage stamp was released in 1978 in India which depicted her painting 'Hill Women'. She inspired a number of contemporary Indian artists. It was in the year 1993 that a renowned Urdu play ‘Tumhari Amrita’ (1992) by Javed Siddiqi came into being. Her work is the main theme in the contemporary Indian novel ‘Faking It’ by Amrita Chowdhury.
Amrita Shergill’s life was filled with passion and color just like her canvasses. She lived life on her own terms, with exceptional ways. In 1938 Amrita married her Hungarian first cousin, Dr. Victor Egan. With him, she moved to her paternal family's home in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Later, the couple shifted to Lahore. Prior to her untimely demise, she left behind a body of work that establishes her amongst the leading artists of the century and a wonderfully eloquent symbol of synthesis between the East and the West. Amrita Shergil left this world on December 6, 1941 but achievements of Amrita Shergill are eternal, splendid and intense. They are keeping her alive amongst us.