27 October, 2020

Sher-Gil Marg

Tradition trapped them as Muse. Now many are buying the idea of art by women.

Narendra Bisht
Sher-Gil Marg
In these 'art does better than stocks' times, if you want to kill society titter one evening, here's how to do it. Just ask, "After Amrita Sher-Gil, who?" After a red-faced silence, you'll probably hear a tentative response... "Anjolie Ela Menon?" That's mostly because few people can list the highest priced women artists in India. And there isn't a barefoot-billionaire female counterpart of M.F. Husain.

Our only memory of a flamboyantly successful woman artist, if any, remains Amrita Sher-Gil. Her death in 1941 left us with rustic, sensual and unconventional oil paintings like Woman Resting on a Charpoy. After Sher-Gil came a gender slump. "Post-Independence, we went into a grand republic period, dominated by the all-male Progressive Artists' Group, which includes Husain, Raza and Souza," says art historian Ranjit Hoskote. "Women artists of the time, like Devayani Krishna and Amina Kar, were pushed to the margins." Women remained subjects, portrayed as nayikas and gopikas till the 1970s, "when the floodgates opened to women artists," writes critic and curator Gayatri...


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