Famous Painters of India: Life, Work, Style

5 minute read

India is a vibrant country with a rich and diverse artistic heritage. Traveling in the universe of art from the ancient cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora to the modern masterpieces of M. F. Hussain, the journey is endless. The famous painters of India have always found ways to express the beauty and complexity of their culture through their work.

In this blog, we will take a walk through the art of some of India’s most famous painters. We will explore their stories and the inspiration behind their work.

Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)

Raja Ravi Varma is considered the “Father of Modern Indian Art.” He is considered one of the most famous painters of India and was known as the First Indian Modern Artist. Raja Ravi Verma was influenced by the European style of arts with an Indian fusion of elements. Varma’s paintings are known for their realistic depiction of human figures, their rich colors, and their dramatic compositions. Paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as his portraits of Indian women, are some gems in his basket of art.

Some of Varma’s most famous paintings include:

  • Shakuntala (1900)
  • Damayanti (1893)
  • Radha and Krishna (1890)
  • Lady with a Lamp (1880)
  • Virarjun (1883)

Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941)

Amrita Sher-Gil was a Hungarian-Indian painter who is considered one of the pioneers of modern Indian art. She was a self-taught painter and has been known as “one of the greatest avant-garde women artists of the early 20th century”. Her paintings depicted scenes from her own life, as well as the lives of women and children. Her work helped to break down traditional gender roles. 

Some of Sher-Gil’s most famous paintings include:

  • Two Girls (1932)
  • Hill Women (1934)
  • Young Girls (1935)
  • Bride’s Toilet (1937)
  • Self-Portrait (1934)

Also Read – History of Indian Art

Abnindranath Tagore (1871-1951)

Abnindranath Tagore was the principal artist and creator of the “Indian Society of Oriental Art”. He was a painter, whose work was mostly inspired by the political conditions of his time. He is known for his revival of traditional Indian painting techniques and his focus on Indian subject matter. Tagore’s paintings are often characterized by their delicate lines, muted colors, and lyrical compositions. His paintings depicted scenarios like the Swadeshi movement, etc.

Some of Tagore’s most famous paintings include:

  • Radha and Krishna (1905)
  • Bharat Mata (1905)
  • The Passing of Shah Jahan (1906)
  • Shakuntala (1910)
  • The Fairy’s Gift (1916)

Nandalal Bose (1882-1966)

Nandalal Bose was a Bengali painter and sculptor who is considered one of the most important artists of the Bengal School of Art. He is known for his paintings, sculptures, and murals, which often depict Indian historical and mythological subjects. He was inspired by both Indian and European art, and his work showcased two styles with elements and features of artistry.

Nandalal Bose sketched the emblem of government awards including the Bharat Ratna and he also decorated the original manuscript of the Indian Constitution. 

Some of Bose’s most famous paintings include:

  • Mother India (1905)
  • The Defeat of Rana Pratap (1905)
  • Saraswati (1915)
  • Bapu (1921)
  • The Santhal Family (1934)

Jamini Roy (1887-1972)

Jaimini Roy was also a Bengali painter and a major figure in the Bengal School of Art as he himself was a student of the school. His inspiration came from Indian culture and tribal art. His work was a reaction against the Western-influenced art of the time. His contribution is highly regarded in the revival of interest in traditional Indian art. He was also known for his use of indigenous materials, such as jute and cow dung, in his paintings.

Some of Roy’s most famous paintings include:

  • Santhal Girl (1935)
  • Mother and Child (1940)
  • The Village Bride (1950)
  • The Flute Player (1960)
  • The Dancers (1970)

Also Read – Traditional Art Form of India

Syed Haider Raza (1922-2016)

Syed Haider Raza moved to India in 1970. He explored different cultures and his work included various fields, such as cosmology, Indian philosophy, and scriptures. He is renowned for his abstract art and geometric canvases. He was also the co-founder of the Bombay Progressive Artists Group. He was also influenced by Indian calligraphy and Islamic art.

Some of Raza’s most famous paintings include:

  • Ananta (1983)
  • Bindu (1985)
  • Saurashtra (1986)

Tyeb Mehta ( 1925-2009)

Tyeb Mehta was a famous painter of India first and then a filmmaker, and sculptor. He was also part of the Progressive Artists Group. His paintings were influenced by Indian themes and touched on aspects like social, political, and everyday happenings to mythology and spirituality. He painted a wide range of subjects, including landscapes, figures, and abstract compositions.  He was influenced by a variety of artists, including Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, and Francis Bacon.

Some of his most famous paintings include:

  • Mahishasuramardini (1964)
  • Falling Figure (1959)
  • Screaming Woman (1962)

Francis Newton Souza ( 1924–2002)

Francis Newton Souza was the founder of the Progressive Artists Group. He believed that art works as “propaganda” He depicted human figures that were different. He was known for his outspoken views on art and politics. His paintings also touched upon the freedom struggle and gave voices to the downtrodden.

Some of his most famous paintings include:

  • Birth (1955)
  • Head of a Clown (1955)
  • Crucifixion (1957)

Vasudeo Gaitonde (1924-2001)

VS Gaitonde is known as one of the best abstract and famous painters of India. He also joined the Progressive Artists Group. Presently, his artwork is ranked as one of the most expensive works. His style was meditative and Spiritual in nature. Gaitonde’s work is also characterized by its abstract and meditative style. He often used muted colors and simple forms to create paintings that evoke a sense of peace and tranquility. 

Some of his most famous paintings include:

  • Untitled (1961): This painting depicts a series of concentric circles in shades of blue and gray. It is a simple yet elegant work that evokes a sense of calm and contemplation.
  • Untitled (1962): This painting depicts a series of vertical brushstrokes in shades of brown and yellow. It is a dynamic and expressive work that evokes a sense of energy and movement.
  • Untitled (1963): This painting is completely black. It is a powerful and evocative work that can be interpreted as a commentary on the darkness and mystery of existence.

M. F Husain ( 1915- 2011)

After joining the Progressive Artists Group, Maqbool Fida Husain’s artistic career took off as he met many talented artists. Husain’s paintings are often described as “neo-folk.” He combined traditional Indian folk art motifs with modern Western art techniques to create a unique and personal style.

He created vivid and daring paintings including the epics, the British rule, Mahatma Gandhi, and both rural and urban life. Husain is a renowned figure in the art world and a famous painter of India who has been dubbed the ‘Picasso of India’.

His Famous paintings include – 

  • Horses (1950s-1960s)
  • Mother Teresa Series (1970s-1980s)
  • Ramayana Series (1980s-1990s)
  • Mahabharata Series (1990s-2000s)
  • The British Raj Series (2000s)

Also Read- How to become a professional Muralist?

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