Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-41), The Child Bride, 1936
Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913 to a Sikh nobleman and a cultivated Hungarian-Jewish musician. Her primitivist longings were first kindled by Gauguin’s Tahitian paintings. Apart from her well-known Gauguinesque paintings, she also produced a thick ‘textural’ style related to the Neue Sachlichkeit movement, which had influenced Hungarian artists. Paradoxically, it was not her painting style, but her vital personality that marked her out as the quintessential modern artist as an alienated outsider. With her mixed parentage, she embodied the contradictions and ambiguities inherent in the modern concepts of ethnicity, nationalism, and cultural ‘purity’. Unconventional and brash yet vulnerable, she shared with many gifted people a voracious sexual appetite that outraged her contemporaries. She had a series of bisexual affairs and her feelings for men were ambivalent. One of her lovers, the English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, described her as a ‘mixture of rose water and methylated spirit’.
Image and text from Indian Art by Partha Mitter