Legendary artist K G Subramanyan, credited with being one of the pioneers of Indian modern art, passed away in Vadodara at the age of 92. “The Kerala-born artist, who had been recovering from a hip surgery conducted over four weeks ago, suddenly took ill and passed away around 3 am. It is a huge loss for us,” Naveen Kishore, publisher Seagull books, told PTI.
Kishore has published over 40 books of the late artist, fondly referred to as ‘Mani Da’ and the Seagull Foundation For The Arts has been organising exhibition of the master’s works in cities across the country.
“He lived a full life and was famous for saying that for him each day is a day of celebration. He had a wonderful support system and we will miss him,” Kishore said.
In a career spanning over six decades, the multifaceted artist, who lived and worked in Baroda, had been a painter, sculptor, muralist and print maker besides an author of children’s books. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2012, Padma Bhushan in 2006 and Padma Shri in 1975.
He was renowned for his outdoor murals, terracottas, and toys and also experimented with weaving. In the 1970s, he began experimenting with reverse painting, an 18th century craft tradition where the artist paints on a sheet of glass and reverses the glass to view the final image.
Subramanyam is survived by his only daughter Uma and son-in-law. His wife Sushila predeceased him a decade ago.
Subramanyan studied under the tutelage of Benode Behari Mukherjee, Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Baij at Santiniketan. His style inspired by rich folk art traditions and also refers to the Modernism’s cubistic styles of the West.
Artists and art fraternity members expressed their grief at the news of his demise.
Rajeev Lochan, director National Gallery of Modern Art said, “The country has lost one of its legendary artists, pedagogue, theorist and scholar with the demise of K G Subramanyan. The NGMA mourns the loss of this noted personality whose contribution to the art world would be always remembered.”
A retrospective exhibition of his work was held in 2003 at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi and Mumbai.
“I got to know about his demise from friends and it is a great loss,” Ranjit Hoskote, art curator, poet and cultural theorist, told PTI from Goa.
Hoskote also took to Twitter and said, “Artist, teacher, wise storyteller, inspiration to several generations of Indian artists: he will be missed.”
Baroda-based artist Rekha Rodwittiya expressed sadness at the artist’s demise. “Indian contemporary art has lost its icon,” she said.
He joined the Kala Bhavan at Viswa Bharati in Santiniketan in 1944. In 1951, post his Santiniketan training, he was invited to teach at the Department of Fine Arts in Baroda, along with N S Bendre and Sankho Choudhary.
In 1955, he received a British Council Research Fellowship to the Slade School of Art at the University of London.
His works are in many collections around the world including the V & A (London), Birla Academy of Art & Culture in Kolkata and the Musee de l’Art in France.