Amrita Sher-Gil: 100th Birthday Celebration

Panel Discussion and UK Book Launch

Friday 10 May 2013

18.00 - 20.00, Research Forum South Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art

self-portait of Amrita Sher-Gil
© Courtesy Vivan Sundaram

Speakers: Vivan Sundaram (Artist, New Delhi), Deepak Ananth (Art Historian, Critic and Independent Curator, Paris), Celine Eidenbenz (University of Geneva), Professor Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds), Professor Sarah Wilson (The Courtauld Institute of Art).

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Deborah Swallow and Sarah Wilson (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

2013 is the centenary of the birth of Amrita Sher-Gil, the most significant woman painter of early 20th century India. Sher-Gil (sometimes known as India’s Frida Kahlo) was an artist of great beauty, intelligence and complexity, who has attained iconic status in India and abroad. Born to a Punjabi Sikh father and a Hungarian mother, she spent most of early childhood in Budapest but moved to Shimla, India, with her family in 1921.

© Courtesy Vivan Sundaram

Demonstrating a precocious talent, at 16 she relocated to Paris to train at the Academie de la Grande Chaumière and then at the École des Beaux-Arts (1930-1934). She drew inspiration from European painters such as Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, while coming under the influence of her teacher, Lucien Simon and the company of artist friends and lovers, like Boris Taslitzky. In 1932, her first important work, Young Girls, led to her election as an Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris in 1933 (the youngest ever and the only Asian to have received this recognition). Haunted by India, she returned there to deepen her engagement with the people and artistic traditions of the subcontinent. She died tragically young at the age of 28; her legacy lives on.

Vivan Sundaram is one of India’s most significant contemporary artists and one of the first to work with installation art. His own recent installations and videos often refer to the artistic influence of Arte Povera. Sundaram is also Amrita Sher-Gil’s nephew and has been involved with the Sher-Gil archive for more than thirty years and recently produced the landmark two-volume publication, Amrita Sher-Gil: Self Portrait in Letters and Writings, which not only reveals the rich history of Sher-Gil’s life and work, but also makes available the vast repertoire of her paintings and her correspondence for continuing scholarship. Critics have called it a complex enmeshing of biography and autobiography in a mode that echoes Sundaram’s photo-montages, Re-take of Amrita (2001), in which photographs taken by Amrita’s father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, are re-worked. In 2007, an exhibition on Sher-Gil’s work at Tate Modern presented a series of her paintings, alongside Sundaram’s Re-take of Amrita.

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