The conflict that Sher-Gil faced in her work seems to be far more pervasive than a mere amalgamation of
dual aesthetics. In her attempts to bring the School of Paris training to bear upon an Indian situation, she
seemed to have felt a pull in two different directions. While her links with formalism have been associated
with that of Paul Gauguin, the underlying implication of rooting her aesthetics in a purely formal discourse
or the contradiction this would bring about in her avowed aim was seldom seen, even by her. Thus, she
wrote, ‘I am an individualist, evolving a new technique, which, though not necessarily Indian in the
traditional sense of the word, will yet be fundamentally Indian in spirit. With the eternal significance of form
and colour I interpret India and, principally the life of the Indian poor on the plane that transcends the pane
of mere sentiment interest.’ Sher-Gil’s engagement with the human condition and her adherence towards
abstract formalism were to create a tension in her work, which she would often resolve fruitfully.
Her later paintings, done before she died prematurely in 1941 at the age of twenty-nine, contain large masses of primary
colours, planar dimensions, and themes from miniatures. Yet as her earlier indicates, had she lived longer she would have found a resolution to the binary opposition.
Sher-Gil's art has influenced generations of Indian artists from Sayed Haider Raza
to Arpita Singh and her depiction of the plight of women has made her art a beacon
for women at large both in India and abroad. The Government of India has
declared her works as National Art Treasures, and most of them are housed in the
National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi. Some of her paintings also hang at
the Lahore Museum. A postage stamp depicting her painting 'Hill Women' was
released in 1978 by India Post, and the Amrita Sher-Gil Marg is a road in Lutyens'
Delhi named after her. Her work is deemed to be so important to Indian culture
that when it is sold in India, the Indian government has stipulated that the art must
stay in the country – fewer than ten of her works have been sold globally. In 2006,
her painting Village Scene sold for ₹6.9 crores at an auction in New Delhi which
was at the time the highest amount ever paid for a painting in India. The Indian
cultural center in Budapest is named the Amrita Sher-Gil Cultural Center.
Contemporary artists in India have recreated and reinterpreted her works. Besides
remaining an inspiration to many a contemporary Indian artists, in 1993, she also
became the inspiration behind the Urdu play Tumhari Amrita. UNESCO
announced 2013, the 100th anniversary of Sher-Gil's birth, to be the international
year of Amrita Sher-Gil. Her work is a key theme in the contemporary Indian novel
Faking It by Amrita Chowdhury. Aurora Zogoiby, a character in Salman Rushdie's
1995 novel The Moor's Last Sigh, was inspired by Sher-Gil. Sher-Gil was
sometimes known as India's Frida Kahlo because of the "revolutionary" way she
blended Western and traditional art forms. In 2018, The New York Times
published a belated obituary for her. In 1941, at age 28, just days before the opening
of her first major solo show in Lahore, she became seriously ill and slipped into a
coma. She later died around midnight on 6 December 1941, leaving behind a large
volume of work. The reason for her death has never been ascertained.
Excerpts from the book The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives by Yashodara Dalmia published by Oxford University Press, New Delhi in 2001
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amrita_Sher-Gil on 5 September 2018