K. G. Subramanyan

K. G. Subramanyan (1924–2016)

K. G. Subramanyan, a pioneer of Indian modern art, died in Vadodara on Wednesday at the age of ninety-two, The Times of India reports. Subramanyan lived in Baroda and worked as a painter, sculptor, muralist, print maker, and author of children’s books.

Born in 1924 in north Kerala, Subramanyan joined the Quit India movement in 1944 and was imprisoned for three years. While studying economics at Presidency College in Madras, he was told he should go to art school by Devi Prasad Rai Chowdhury, the principal of the Madras School of Art, after he discovered drawings by the artist and recognized his potential. Subramanyan first studied art at Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan under the instruction of Benode Behari Mukherjee, Nandalal Bose, and Ramkinkar Baij.

Over his six-decade career, Subramanyan was inspired by folk art and cubism. He would pull motifs from India’s various artistic traditions and reinvent them in contemporary contexts. He worked as a professor and lecturer and wrote extensively about Indian art. Subramanyan was awarded the Padma Vibhushan (2012), Padma Bhushan (2006), and Padma Shri (1975).

A retrospective exhibition of his work was held in 2003 at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and Mumbai. Director Rajeev Lochan said, “The country has lost one of its legendary artists, pedagogue, theorist, and scholar.”

Subramanyan said in an interview about his work: “I do not want to be oppressed by the feeling that art is long, life is short. Life is certainly short—even a long life is not long enough for us to achieve all of what we want. But the language of art should emerge naturally, with ease and spontaneity, out of our responses to our environment and out of our inner vision.”