In Memoriam: Satish Gujral (1925 – 2020)

Saffronart is saddened by the loss of eminent artist and sculptor Satish Gujral, who passed away on 26 March 2020 at the age of 94. An internationally acclaimed artist, muralist, sculptor, architect and writer, Gujral was known as one of the pioneers of modernism in post-Independent India.

Born in Jhelum, Punjab, in 1925, Gujral spent his early years drawing and reading Urdu literature after he suffered a hearing disability at the age of nine. In 1939, Gujral joined the Mayo School of Art in Lahore. Soon after, in 1944, he joined the J J School of Art in Bombay where he met the members of the Progressive Artists Group (PAG), which included founders F N Souza, S H Raza and M F Husain. However, Gujral rejected the PAG’s brand of modernism, which was inspired by European sensibilities and techniques, and instead searched for a traditional identity.

In 1952, Gujral received a scholarship to study at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, where he served as an apprentice to renowned artists Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, who were pioneers of the muralist movement at the time. Inspired by them, Gujral similarly explored painting large fresco murals himself, and was frequently commissioned to paint them in India and abroad.

In the decades that followed, Gujral had exhibitions all around the world and won numerous national and international awards. He was a three-time National Award Winner for painting and sculpture, and the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan in 1999 – the second highest civilian award in India. The Belgian government conferred upon him the ‘Order of the Crown’ for designing the Belgian Embassy in New Delhi – a building that was selected to be among 1000 outstanding buildings of the 20th century by an international jury.

Satish Gujral’s death is a loss to the entire Indian and international art community, and he will be deeply missed.

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