Category Archives: Musings

Happy 100th, Amrita!

The reformer of modern Indian painting, Amrita Sher-Gil would be turning 100 years old this year.

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Amrita Dalma Sher-Gil was born in Budapest, Hungary (30th January 1913) to a Sikh father and a Hungarian mother. Both her parents were aristocrats, providing Amrita with an excellent education.

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Amrita and her sister, Indira spent their childhood in Hungary, then with the end of the First World War the family moved back to India.

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A few years later, in the early 1920s Amrita moved back to Europe with her mother in order to study art. She was enrolled at schools in Florence and Paris  (École des Beaux-Arts).

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Young Girls, 1932, by Amrita Sher-Gil

With her painting, Young Girls, she became the youngest and the only Asian elected as an Associate of the Parisian Grand Salon in 1933.

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Amrita is often compared to Frida Kahlo, and called the ‘Indian Frida Kahlo’, because of her unique style, her bisexuality, and her reputed libido.

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In the 1930s she travelled to Hungary several times, where she met her future husband, Egan Viktor, a medical student.

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While staying in Hungary, Amrita Sher-Gil was inspired by the rural life and created several paintings focusing on this theme.

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In the 1930s she ‘discovers’ India, examining the ancient art of her father’s homeland. As a woman who lived and travelled in the West, Amrita Sher-Gil recognised the contrasts between East and West, ancient and modern rather clearly. In her art work she reflects on the beauty of this unique duality of contrasts, which she also finds in her own heritage.

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In 1939 Amrita Sher-Gil and her husband, Viktor Egan moved to Gorakhpur, India. Egan opened his own medical practice, while Sher-Gil was concentrating on her art work.

Two years later, on 5th December Amrita Sher-Gil suddenly became ill, fell into a coma, and passed away.

Some Facts about Sher-Gil:

  • She was the niece of the well-known Hungarian Indologist, Ervin Baktay.
  • Amrita’s mother tongue was Hungarian.
  • Her mother, Gottesmann Marie-Antoinette, was an opera singer, trained by Puccini himself. She committed suicide after her daughter’s premature death.
  • Her father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, was a famous linguist, a scholar of Persian, Urdu, and Sanskrit.
  • Amrita Sher-Gil was also musically trained. She played the piano and the violin.

 

Love and Light

 

Noémi