The Modernist painter Akbar Padamsee died on Monday 6th January at the age of 91. He was an Indian artist and painter and considered one of the pioneers of Modern Indian painting.
Over the years he also worked with various mediums from oil painting, plastic emulsion, water colour, sculpture, printmaking, to computer graphics, and photography. In addition, he worked as a film maker, sculptor, photographer, engraver, and lithographer.
His painting Reclining Nude was sold for US$1,426,500 at Sotheby’s in 2011 and his paintings are among the most valued by modern Indian artists today.
Padamsee was born into a traditional Khoja Muslim familyin Gujarat on 12th April 1928. Padamsee’s father, Hassan Padamsee, was an affluent businessman who ran a glassware and furniture business. His mother, Jenabhai Padamsee, was a home-maker. Akbar Padamsee was one of their eight children and one of his brothers is the actor Alyque Padamsee.
Early in life, he started copying images from The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine in his father’s accounts books at their store on Chakla Street, in South Mumbai.He went on as a student to St. Xavier’s High School, Fort and it was here that met his first mentor, his teacher Shirsat.
He was still studying fine art at the school, when the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) was formed in 1947 by Francis Newton Souza, S. H. Raza, and M. F. Husain. The group was to have a lasting impact on Indian art. By the time he received his diploma he was already associated with the group.
In late 1950, Raza was awarded a French government scholarship, and he invited Padamsee to accompany him to Paris. Padamsee left for Paris in 1951, where artist Krishna Reddy introduced him to the surrealist Stanley Hayter, who became his next mentor.
Padmasee soon joined his studio, “Atelier 17”. His first exhibition was held in Paris in 1952. The artists exhibited anonymously, thus he shared the prize awarded by the French magazine Journal d’Arte with the painter Jean Carzou.
His very first solo show was held at the Jehangir Art Gallery in 1954, and soon he became one of leading artists. He received the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship in 1962, a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1965 and was subsequently invited to be an artist-in-residence by the University of Wisconsin–Stout. He returned to India in 1967.
As a member of many artistic committees, he took part in the development of the collections of the Bharat Bhawan museum of Bhopal, and created the VIEW (Vision Exchange Workshop). He curated major cultural events and received many distinctions such as the Padma Shri in 2009.
His work is introspective; his “Metascapes” or his “Mirror Images” are abstract images formed from the search for a formal logic. His topics include landscapes, nudes, heads and he has done portraits created in pencil and charcoal.
The depth which emerges from his oil-based works, emanates from the coloured matter. This creates a pictorial technique juxtaposing emerging split forms.
He lived in South Mumbai with his wife Bhanumati, and worked at his studio in Prabhadevi. He died on 6 January 2020 at the age of 91.