K G Subramanyan (1924 – 2016): A Tribute to the Master Artist

Meera Godbole-Krishnamurthy, our Editor-in-Chief, collates some tributes to the artist.

K G Subramanyan

Artist K G Subramanyan in front of a painting commissioned for Saffronart’s exhibition, Ode to the Monumental, in 2014. Photo courtesy of Krishen Khanna

The Saffronart Team mourns the demise of K G Subramanyan, who passed away on 29 June 2016 in Vadodara, at the age of 92. In tribute, we quote from his poem The Circle:

 “To stoop down and kiss the earth.

Between the skyward sprouts

And the leaves that fall to earth

Revolves the endless tale

Of birth and life and death.”

Tributes to the master artist have been extensive, as friends, fellow-artists and students remember him and his contributions to the art world.

In Daily O, Mumbai-based writer Gayatri Jayaraman writes, “Drawing from nature, he yet rarely drew nature, focusing on the deconstructed gesture of the human form. This philosophy of coexistence of separate intellectual strands was to be an influence that would forever etch murals into his oeuvre.”

In an article for the Indian Express, fellow-artist Gulammohammed Sheikh from Vadodara, speaks of Subramanyan’s approach to his art: “In this prolific output, there is an ambitious endeavour to grasp and encompass the entire gamut of lived life… We all dearly hold on to the hand-drawings he sent to friends as greetings. They are part of our memories.”

Scroll presents an excerpt from an interview of  Subramanyan with R Siva Kumar, who has authored monographs on the artist, with the sub-heading : “Startlingly modern and intrinsically Indian, his work was both deeply engaging and vastly influential. More than an era passes with his death.”

Spirits, gouache on board, was exhibited in Subramanyan’s most recent show in 2015 – 16. From Saffronart’s Summer Online Auction, 10 – 12 June 2015

Spirits, gouache on board, was exhibited in Subramanyan’s most recent show in 2015 – 16. From Saffronart’s Summer Online Auction, 10 – 12 June 2015

Born in Kerala on 15 February 1924, Subramanyan was one of the leading artists who was part of India’s post-Independence search for identity through art. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the Presidency College in Chennai. In 1948, he graduated from Kala Bhavan in Santiniketan, where he studied under the tutelage of Benode Behari Mukherjee, Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Baij. In 1955, he received a British Council Research Fellowship to the Slade School of Art at the University of London.

A writer, scholar, teacher and art historian, Subramanyan was prolific in his art, spanning the spectrum of mediums from painting to pottery, weaving, and glass painting. He believed in the value of Indian traditions and incorporated folklore, myth and local techniques and stories into his work. He was an inspiration to generations of students as a member of the Baroda M S Fine Arts Faculty. His focus there in later years was on terracotta and pottery.

In a career spanning nearly seven decades, Subramanyan’s work has been exhibited in over fifty solo shows, including an extensive 2015-2016 exhibition by the Seagull Foundation for the Arts in collaboration with the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, and the Harrington Street Arts Centre, Kolkata.

A set of two works on paper From Saffronart’s Works on Paper Online Auction, 19 – 20 March 2015

A set of two works on paper. From Saffronart’s Works on Paper Online Auction, 19 – 20 March 2015

K G Subramanyan leaves behind a rich legacy of art and writing which will be cherished by generations of artists, critics and art connoisseurs.

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