Amrita Shergill, one of the most famous painters of India, was born on 30th January 1913 in Budapest city of Hungary. Her father, Umrao Singh Shergill Majithia was a Sikh aristocrat, who was a scholar in Sanskrit. Her mother was a Hungarian singer, Marie Antoinette Gottesmann. Amrita Shergil was the eldest of the two daughters born to her parents, her younger sister being Indira Sundaram, now the mother of the modern artist Vivan Sundaram. The beauty and depth of Amrita Sher Gil’s paintings have led to her being popularly called as ‘India’s Frida Kahlo’.
As Amrita Shergill’s biography and life history unfolds, we get to know that the painter spent her early childhood in the Dunaharasti village of Hungary. In the year 1921, her family shifted from Hungary to the beautiful hill station of Shimla. It was during her stay in Shimla that Amrita developed an interest in the art of painting and she started receiving tuitions from an Italian sculptor living there. When the painter moved back to Italy in 1924, Amrita and her mother also followed him. After reaching Italy, she joined Santa Anunciata, a Roman Catholic institution.
In Santa Anunciata, Amrita Shergil received exposure to the works of the Italian artists, which furthered her interest in painting. She also received formal training in painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, under Lucien Simon. During that time, she was greatly influenced by the European painters, like Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. Her paintings reflect a strong influence of the Western modes of painting, especially the ones practiced in the Bohemian circles of Paris in the early 1930s.
Amrita Sher Gil returned to India in the year 1934 and from then onwards, began her never-ending journey in the field of the traditions of Indian art. In the country, she was influenced by the Mughal miniatures schools as well as the Ajanta paintings. Her journey of the southern parts of the Indian subcontinent resulted in her painting the famous South-Indian trilogy paintings.
Amrita married her Hungarian first cousin, Dr. Victor Egan, in 1938. Thereafter, she moved with her husband to her paternal family’s home in Gorakhpur city of Uttar Pradesh. Later, the couple shifted to Lahore city of, the then, undivided India. Amrita Shergil left this world in the year 1941.
Her Works & Achievements
Amrita Shergill was one of the most impressive as well as the most gifted Indian artists belonging to the pre-colonial era. She was also the youngest as well as the only Asian artist to be elected as an Associate of the Grand Salon in Paris. The paintings of Amrita Shergil show a significant influence of the Western modes of painting. Her works also reflect her deep passion and sense of colors. Her deep understanding of the Indian subjects also comes across through her paintings.
The works of Amrita Shergill have been declared as National Art Treasures by the Government of India. Most of her paintings adorn the ‘National Gallery of Modern Art’ in New Delhi. There is also a road named after the painter in Lutyen’s Delhi, known as the Amrita Shergill Marg.