Amrita Sher-Gil: A Rebel, A Genius and A Pioneer

Widely celebrated as the spectacular pioneer of modern art in India, Amrita Shergill is considered a legend by many. The trail of her supporters and admirers is not limited to just the art scene. Born in an affluent and aristocratic family, Amrita Shergill had the privilege of attaining quality education in various fields which she dedicatedly did. At just the tender age of eight, Amrita Shergill started taking art lessons in Shimla where she used to live with her family. Shergill had a variety of forms of education but ever since a very young age, she was aware enough in her resolve to reject those elements in her education that she thought of as too obsolete or autocratic. Her artstyle is a fantastic fusion of Indian and European art altogether that truly makes her a remarkable artist to remember for years to come.

Shergill is known for her rebellious nature which is reflected in her works. During her teen years, she was enrolled by her guardians in a Roman Catholic School in Florence with the hopes of instilling the love for European art in her, but she rebelled and stood her ground on to be sent back to India where she was expelled from a convent school for her atheist views. However, societal norms like these never stopped her from growing, she started indulging her inner self in the beauty of the rural countryside and Persian poetry that her father used to translate. After this, she moved to Paris to study art. Therefore, her work gradually elevated from her usual classical life portraits which collaborated with post-impressionism into a watered down style that led to an identity crisis for her that inspired her return to India. The decision of her without any doubts worked in favour for her as it was this era in time that crystallised her unique style of the fusion of cultural style gathered throughout her travelling time that solidified into the legendary works of art that are still loved & respected today.

A 1938 oil on canvas by Amrita Sher-gil titled In the Ladies Enclosure

A 1938 oil on canvas by Amrita Sher-gil titled In the Ladies Enclosure

Entirety of Amrita Shergill's works depicted the story of Indian women in many different ways. She never shied away from depicting the true reality of the Indian women in the 1930s which fused her fierce art style with years of practice & precision which frequently revealed the plight of despair and solitude in her paintings. In the era of art where women were shown as cheerful and obedient in the paintings, Amrita Shergill's art style was like a breath of fresh breeze with fierce resolve as she painted the daily lives of women with her extraordinary style. She fathomed the depths of the solitude of her art subjects beautifully as well as she sympathised with those emotions since most of those moods were a stark reflection of her own as she lives her life while navigating through her identity quest and a deep sense of belonging. 

The essence of her works and her career cannot be summed up in a few hundreds of words. Amrita Shergill used her position and skills to give a voice to the silenced capabilities and wasted potential of millions of women due to the obsolete norms of the society with her works of art.

She depicted the uneasiness, impatience and restlessness in the eyes of the underprivileged women who never got the opportunity to thrive. Balancing melancholy and loneliness with her firm hold in her art works to break the shackles of unattainable standards for women in the society, Amrita Shergill will be remembered for decades to come not just as an artist but as a woman of strong resolve as well. 

Written by Ayusshi

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