Artist, historian and art scholar KG Subramanyan passed away on Wednesday afternoon, at a hospital in Vadodara. He was 93.
He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law.
“He complained about feeling unwell and was taken to the hospital by his daughter Uma,” says Purushottam Dhumal, Subramanyan’s neighbour and former dean of faculty for fine art at MS University.
Subramanyan, a Padma Vibhushan, was one of the most renowned contemporary artists of India, best known for his fantastical images coupled with symbols from Indian folklore.
“A large section of Indian contemporary art lacks its own language. If the work is Indian, then it is not contemporary and vice-versa,” says artist Deepak Karnal, also a former dean at MS University. “But KG’s work had a distinct Indian language. His concerns,semantics and metaphors were rooted in the land. Not borrowed.”
Subramanyan was known as a great teacher too, and had taught fine art for 20 years at the Maharaja Sayajirao University and at Santiniketan in Kolkata. “He was always willing to talk to people. Any student or professor could walk into his house to discuss their works or concerns,” Dhumal says. “It was always fun talking to him because he had a great sense of humour and could talk about anything from fine arts to politics, theatre, music and mithai [sweets].”
The Kerala-born Manida, as he was fondly called, was known for his love of mithai. “Any time you went to his house he would offer you a variety of sweets. If you gifted him one, you would earn brownie points,” says Dhumal.
Subramanyan illustrated and wrote children’s fiction as well, most notably Our Friends the Ogres, The King and The Little Man, and In the Zoo.