Sunday, March 28, 2010

Amrita: Life in letters

When Amrita Sher-Gil died young at 29, with speculation about the cause as much variegated as the short life she lived, she left behind a story that can be told and retold in many ways, says Poonam Goel

She may have lived to be only 29, but Amrita Sher-Gil’s persona, both as an artist of enduring repute and a woman of colourful escapades, continues to intrigue people several decades after her inexplicable death in 1941. A great many questions about her multi-dimensional life, sometimes dismissed as bohemian, sometimes revered as iconic, have now been answered, thanks to a comprehensive two-volume book titled Amrita Sher-Gil: A Self Portrait in Letters & Writings by her artist-nephew Vivan Sundaram. This long awaited publication (“it took 20 years to complete,” says Sundaram) includes primary material like Amrita’s diary entries as a young child of seven, letters to her family, friends, artist fraternity and admirers as she moved to and fro between Hungary, France, Italy and India, a journey that eventually shaped her both as an artist and an individual.

Born to a Hungarian mother and a Sikh father, Amrita’s initial years were spent studying art in Paris, though she thought she could never be tutored. Her independent streak was visible from a very young age (she was expelled from school for being an atheist), as she later mentions in a published article in The Hindu in 1936: “Although I studied, I have never been taught painting…because I possess in my psychological makeup a peculiarity that resents any outside interference...”

Full report here Deccan Herald

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