Art is vast and life is short. Amrita Sher-gil, the celebrated Indian painter, had left this world early in 1941 when she was only in her late 20s, but her artistic skills continue to inspire many.
The man said to have inspired her to paint was her Hungarian maternal uncle Ervin Baktay, for whom the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary, New Delhi, organised a tribute on the occasion of his 50th death anniversary in the form of a 14-day day exhibition on his life, including his India visits.
The display was inaugurated on Wednesday evening at the Indian Academy of Fine Arts (IAFA) here by Tibor Kovacs, director of Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre at the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary, along with Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna, president of IAFA.
More than 30 special photographs and 18 oil paintings by Amrita Sher-gil are on display, which were explained in great detail by Kovacs. The photographs are old, but speak volumes about Baktay’s life and his visits to India, where he travelled a lot and most pictures clearly prove his love for India and its culture. Agrees Kovacs, saying, “He visited India on several occasions, but his major visit to India was between 1926-28 in which he travelled to various cities and towns such as Shimla (where he stayed at Amrita’s home), Srinagar, Patiala, Ladhak, Agra, New Delhi and even Lahore (Pakistan).
Wherever he went, he was fascinated by the local culture and languages which inspired him to write on India. The country finally turned him into an author and Baktay wrote more than 30 books on India,” said Kovacs, adding, “He has played a key role in promoting India and its culture in Europe.”
Baktay had started his career as a painter and thereby inspired Sher-gil to take up painting, though he later turned into a noted indologist (one engaged in the study of India’s literature, history, philosophy, etc). Some pictures that show Baktay camping at hill stations stand out, especially those where he is seen wearing traditional Indian dresses.
The exhibition includes some of Amrita’s most famous oil paintings such as Women on Charpai, The Ancient Storyteller, Young Girls and Brahmacharis among others. As was with her uncle, Indian culture seems to have cast its spell on her imagination.
“The exhibition is a must-see for one and all, including tourists who come to Amritsar. They will discover a lot in it and can take great inspiration from it,” said Kovacs.