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Amrita Sher-Gill

Amrita Sher-Gill was born on 30 January 1913 in Budapest, Hungary. She was the daughter of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and Marie Antoinette Gottesmann, a Hungarian. Her father traced his lineage to a well-known aristocratic family near Amritsar.

A renowned scholar of Sanskrit and Persian, he also studied philosophy and religion, besides astronomy, photography and carpentry, and was fluent in many languages. Amrita spent the initial years of her childhood in Europe. She started painting early on and her mother was quick to spot the inherent talent in her. She trained at one of the best art schools in Paris, the Ecole des Beaux Arts. While in Paris, she had the opportunity to visit many of the premier art galleries, museums etc, which were later reflected in her works. She returned to India in November 1934 and was fascinated by the images that India presented. Initially, she settled down in Shimla in Himachal Pradesh in 1935, where she started painting ordinary men and women who she encountered in her day-to-day life. In 1936, she visited the Ajanta caves and the frescoes therein had a lasting impact her style of painting. Amrita Sher-Gill had achieved a harmony between Indian and Western styles of painting.

The second phase of her artistic career began in 1938 when she moved away from naturalistic shadows and began to concentrate more on imaginary treatment. She had a tremendous influence of the Indian art scene. Amrita’s mother disapproved of her daughter’s life style and wanted her to settle down in life. Amrita was engaged to an Indian man for a few months, but she broke it off. This had a deep impact on her psyche.

She married her Hungarian first cousin, Dr. Victor Egan in 1938 and then moved to Lahore. She was referred to as India’s Frida Kahlo and the Government of India has declared her works as National Art Treasures. She passed away in Lahore on 5 December 1941.