NATIONAL ART TREASURE - NON-EXPORTABLE ITEM (Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale at the back of the catalogue)
Charcoal on paper
21 ⅞ x 16 ⅜ in. (55.6 x 41.7 cm.)
Purchased from the artist's family by the current owner.
‘Amrita painted women best, herself included. She portrays herself voluptuously, pensively, happily, or as a Gauguinesque nude.’ (Richard Bartholomew, ‘Amrita Sher-Gil - Her Life and Paintings’, Indian and Foreign Review, May 1, 1972, reproduced in Richard Bartholomew, The Art Critic, New Delhi, 2012, p. 269)
Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913. Her father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, a Sikh aristocrat from the Majithia clan was a Sanskrit and Persian scholar and her mother, Marie Antoinette, was a Hungarian opera singer. The couple lived in Budapest at the time their first daughter was born, having traveled there from Lahore a few months earlier. The outbreak of World War I the next year did not allow the family to come back to India until the spring of 1921, and Amrita and her younger sister Indira spent their early years in Hungary. Her early education continued in India until 1929, where the family alternated between living in their summer home in Simla and the family estates in the village of Saraya.
Given the strong inclination she showed for painting, at the age of sixteen Sher-Gil’s parents decided to move the family back to France so that Amrita could study art in Paris. Technically, her years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts made her proficient in European Academic Realism which formed the basis of any art education at the time. In her two years at the Ecole and the subsequent time she spent in Paris, she created over sixty paintings and hundreds of sketches, primarily in charcoal, of the female nude so that she could perfect her technique and ‘comprehend the human form in all its veracity… While technically academic exercises, there were done with great energy and sureness of hand, revealing her zest for the human form in all its diversity and variations.’ (Yashodhara Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life, New Delhi, 2006, p. 31)
It helped that from an early age, she enjoyed drawing. ‘I have drawn and painted, I think, from my tiniest childhood, and I recollect that the presents I most looked forward to as a child were paint boxes, coloured pencils, drawing paper, and picture books. Rather independent in spirit even at that age, it will be of psychological interest to note that I detested the process of ‘colouring in’ the drawings of picture books and never allowed ‘grown ups’ to draw things for me to colour in (a practice that most children adore, leaving the most difficult task, drawing, to others and monopolising the more natural and pleasant one of colour for themselves). I always drew and painted everything myself and resented correction or interference with my work.’ (ibid., p. 15)
Sher-Gil preferred to paint from live models, as an alternative to the professional models available at the Ecole, and she often asked friends, fellow students or her sister, Indira to pose for her. The strong European elements in the current work indicate that it was probably produced during her Paris years.
* Antiquity or Art Treasure – Non-exportable Item. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale.
About The Artist:
AMRITA SHER-GIL (1913 - 1941)