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Amrita Shergill

mrita Sher-Gil (January 30, 1913, Budapest, Hungary – December 5, 1941, Lahore), was an eminent Indian painter, sometimes known as India's Frida Kahlo. She was daughter of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and also a scholar in Sanskrit, and Marie Antoinette Gottesmann, a Hungarian, who was a singer. Sher-Gil was the elder of two daughters born to Umrao Singh and Marie Antoinette. Her younger sister was Indira Sundaram (née Sher-Gil), mother of the contemporary artist Vivan Sundaram.


Sher-Gil was trained as a painter in Italy and Paris, at the École des Beaux-Arts and drew inspiration from European painters such as Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, while coming under the influence of her teacher Lucien Simon and the company of artist friends and lovers like Boris Tazlitsky. Her early paintings display a significant influence of the Western modes of painting, especially as being practised in the Bohemian circles of Paris in the early 1930s.

Sher-Gil returned to India in 1934 and began a rediscovery of the traditions of Indian art which was to continue till her death. She was greatly impressed and influenced by the schools of Mughal miniatures and the Ajanta paintings. She toured South India and produced the famous South Indian trilogy paintings, that reveal her passionate sense of colour and an equally passionate empathy for her Indian subjects, who are often depicted in their poverty and despair. Her work also shows an engagement with the works of Hungarian painters in the interwar years, especially the Nagybanya school of painting.

Sher-Gil married her Hungarian first cousin, Dr. Victor Egan in 1938, and moved with him to India, to stay at her paternal family's home in Saraya, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. The couple later moved to Lahore then in undivided India, and a major cultural and artistic centre. She lived and painted at 23 Ganga Ram Mansions, The Mall, Lahore, where her studio was reported to be on the top floor of the townhouse she inhabited. She was also famous for her many affairs with both women and men. Sher-Gil died in 1941, but the real reason for death has never been ascertained, something expected in view of the overly sensationalised accounts of Amrita's life in the words of her contemporaries. A failed abortion and peritonitis have been suggested as the possible causes.

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. A road is named after her in Lutyens' Delhi, Amrita Shergill Marg.
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