Legendary artist Akbar Padamsee passes away aged 91, leaving behind his indelible imprint on Indian art

Known for his luminous metscapes, Akbar Padamsee was among the pioneers of modern Indian art

FP Staff January 06, 2020 23:21:25 IST
Legendary artist Akbar Padamsee passes away aged 91, leaving behind his indelible imprint on Indian art

One of India's best known artists, Akbar Padamsee passed away in Coimbatore on the evening of 6 January 2019. He was 91.

Padamsee, along with FN Souza, MF Husain and SH Raza, was among the pioneers of modern Indian art, and was also part of the Progressive Artists' Group.

Padamsee was born in Mumbai in 1928.

His interest in art began early, and Padamsee recalled copying pictures out of copies of the Illustrated Weekly. While visiting his father's office as a little boy, he would also draw in the margins of the account books and ledgers — prompting both exasperation and affection from his parent in response.

Legendary artist Akbar Padamsee passes away aged 91 leaving behind his indelible imprint on Indian art

Akbar Padamsee at an exhibition of his works at Priyasri Art Gallery in 2017. Image via Twitter/@artgallery42

While enrolled at St. Xavier's High School in Fort, Akbar began studying art more seriously, going on to join the Sir JJ School of Art, from where he earned a Diploma in Painting.

It was after he finished his course at JJ that his friend, SH Raza, suggested that Padamsee accompany him to Paris; Raza had won a scholarship there. The duo sailed for France in 1951, where Padamsee would meet the surrealist Stanley Hayter and also hold his first-ever solo exhibition.

Padamsee lived in France until 1968, marrying the late Solange Gunelle, with whom he had a daughter, the actress Raisa Padamsee. On his return to India, he once again made Mumbai his home.

Over a long and storied career, Padamsee — renowned for his metascapes — would win many honours, including a gold medal from the Lalit Kala Akademi, and the Padma Bhushan in 2010. Of his oeuvre, the online auction house Saffronart noted:

Padamsee’s interest in structure and form takes shape from landscapes, and is borne from an interest in Sanskrit texts such as the 'Abhijanashakuntalam'. His 'Mirror Images' reflect a concern with the duality of existence. His portraits and heads are treated with the same interest in constructing form rather than in the specifics of portraiture. The only occasion when he created identifiable portraits was in 1997, with his 'Gandhi' series of works on paper in watercolour and charcoal.

The Jehangir Nicholson Foundation's profile of the artist observed:

During his illustrious career, [Padamsee] explored a wide range of mediums, and managed to remain fiercely experimental and individualistic. His artistic oeuvre is a formal exploration of a few chosen genres — prophets, heads, couples, still-life, grey works, metascapes, mirror-images and tertiaries, across a multitude of media — oil painting, plastic emulsion, water colour, sculpture, printmaking, computer graphics, and photography. His early portraits and landscapes in varied mediums of painting, drawing and etching demonstrate a quasi-spiritual style of working. His oils have been characterised by a deep intensity and luminescence while his drawings exude a serene grace."

One among eight siblings, the artist's brother was (noted ad man and theatre guru) Alyque Padamsee.

Akbar Padamsee is survived by his wife Bhanumati, and daughter Raisa and her family.

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