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Amrita Sher-Gil

“Bold, unconventional, hugely talented and very beautiful - the painter Amrita Sher-Gil is the stuff that legends are made of. ‘Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse and Braque and many others. India belongs only to me, declared the daughter of a Hungarian opera singer and a Sikh aristocrat four years before her premature tragic death. She died in 1941. She was 28 years old. Hers is an unfinished project, but today Amrita Sher-Gil is an icon of Indian modern art. Intuitively cosmopolitan, she navigated with ease the deep waters between Europe and South Asia. She once wrote: ‘It always surprises me to hear that those who can recognize the good in Western art are unable to do so as regards Eastern art. To me it seems incredible. But perhaps this is due to my double atavism ’."

This is the opening statement on-camera for the 37-minute film made for the exhibition “Amrita Sher-Gil - a Family of Artists in the 20th Century” that showed at the Museum Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany from October 2, 2006 to January 8, 2007. Later the exhibition and the film moved to London where they were shown at the Tate Modern from February 26, 2007 to April 30, 2007.

Amrita Sher-Gil is an emblematic figure representing modernism in India. In much the same way as her contemporary Frida Kahlo, Amrita used her ambiguities of nationality and sexuality, in conjunction with modernist aesthetics and a liberal social education, to question what and how an Indian artist, let alone a female one, might be. The two women have much in common: the cult about India / Mexico; living and working under colonial circumstances in a world influenced by the West; a utopian-like mixture of very different cultures; protagonists of feminist assertion and free sexuality.

Amrita Sher-Gil was born in 1913 in Budapest and grew up in an artistically inclined family of cosmopolitans, who at the beginning of the 20th Century journeyed between Europe and India. Amrita lived in Paris from 1929-1934, studying at the École des Beaux Arts and was a welcome guest in the Paris salons. During this period between the two world wars she was influenced by Realism and particularly by Paul Gauguin. On her return to India in 1934 her discovery of classical and medieval Indian art, the early frescoes of the Buddhist cave temples of Ajanta, the sculpture of Ellora and the murals in the Mattancheri Palace in Cochin, as well as the various schools of miniature painting : Mughal, Rajput, Basholi and Jain, led to a series of visual and contextual reorientation in her artistic quest and her passionate if tragically brief pursuit of pictorial expression. Amrita was on the threshold of becoming a truly modern Indian painter when sadly, her life was cut short at the age of 28.

Amrita Sher-Gil, a Family Album

A film by Navina Sundaram (37 minutes)

The film Amrita Sher-Gil, a Family Album, is a personal account of the life and work of one of India's most renowned painters made by Navina Sundaram, Amrita's niece, who currently lives in Germany and works as a television journalist and independent film maker . Using old photographs, diary entries, newspaper cuttings, letters and anecdotes her mother, Amrita’s sister Indira, told her, Navina Sundaram presents a fascinating portrait of the painter and woman Amrita Sher-Gil.

Navina Sundaram born in 1945, grew up and studied in Delhi / India. Ever since 1970 she has worked as a political television editor-cum-reporter and as foreign correspondent for North German Radio & Television in Hamburg. In her capacity as filmmaker, roving correspondent, news reporter, anchor woman, she worked for programs on the national network like “Weltspiegel”, “Faces Asiens”, ”,“ Panorama ”,“ Extra Drei ”. She also has made scores of documentary films. She has reported from Europe, Africa, South-East Asia and South Asia. From 1992 - 1993 she was foreign correspondent and head of the South Asia Television Studio in New Delhi. Navina Sundaram today lives and works as a television journalist and independent film maker in Germany.

After the film screening, Navina Sundaram talks about Amrita Sher-Gil.

The evening will be concluded with a reception.


22 May 2008

18:00 hrs


Embassy of India

Tiergartenstrasse 17,

10785 Berlin

Bus 200 Tiergartenstrasse

Free admission

Please show your identity card at the entry point!

It will be highly appreciated, if bags and eatables are not brought inside the premises of the Embassy