Acclaimed artist Satish Gujral passes away at 94
Satish Gujral, 94, one of India’s most well known artists, passed away Thursday evening.
A Padma Vibhushan awardee, Gujral’s work spanned the medium: he was a muralist, a painter, an architect, a designer, and a poetry lover.
From making the alphabet mural that adorns the facade of the Delhi high court to designing the Belgian Embassy in the national Capital, Gujral’s catholic sensibility to what constitutes art was inculcated at an early age.
Born in Lahore in 1925, Gujral witnessed the misery and horror of Partition. Soon afterwards, he moved to Simla, where he immersed himself in painting “man’s cruelty to man”, as he put it in a 2016 interview. Some of his most famous paintings express this anguish, including Days of Glory and Mourning en mass.
A poetry lover, Gujral often said that his love for art derived from the words of poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ghalib. He would also accompany older brother Inder, then a student of Lahore college, to poetry reading sessions. His brother, the late Inder Kumar Gujral went on to become the Prime Minister of India.
In the 1950s, he apprenticed with David Siqueiros and Diego Rivera (the great Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s husband), and inspired by them, he turned to making murals in ceramic and terracotta.
Art critic and curator Ranjit Hoskote said, “I always admired Satish Gujral for the wide range of his practice, which embraced painting, sculpture and architecture. He was boldly experimental in his approach to materials like burnt wood, and took on a variety of scales, from the art object to the building. He was an heir to the Mexican muralists whose student he had been in the early 1950s, Diego Rivera and David Sequeiros. And he was a pioneering Indian modernist. We will miss him.”
Gujral is survived by his wife, Kiran, son, Mohit, daughter-in-law Feroze, and grandchildren.