Belonging to the first generation of postcolonial Indian artists that sought cosmopolitan freedom in Paris and London during the 1950s and ’60s, Akbar Padamsee developed his images within the genres of portraiture and landscape as refracted through the prism of high modernism.
Born on 12 April 1928, Padamsee graduated from Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, in 1951. Shortly thereafter, he travelled to France, where he was awarded a prize by André Breton, French writer and poet, who is known as the co-founder of surrealism.
Padamsee’s career witnessed various phases with changing emphases. His early portraits and landscapes demonstrated a quasi-spiritual style of working. He subsequently abolished their very core whence they came to be termed as ‘inscapes’ in art-historical vocabulary. This proved to be one of the turning points in Padamsee’s career, plunging him into much deeper subconscious layers. In addition to the already existing formal and aesthetic elements in his paintings, a new psychoanalytical dimension was added.
His pioneering spirit allowed him to experiment with a wide range of mediums—from the traditional to the latest such as computer graphics. Whatever his chosen medium, he had a distinctive command over the use of space, form and colour. Padamsee’s oils were characterised by a deep intensity and luminescence while his drawings exuded a serene grace.
In a career spanning six decades, Padamsee exhibited his works across the world. In 2010, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. He passed away on 6 January 2020.
‘Art for me is to express the invisible. No morality, no values, no hierarchy can enter its field’
The ‘Manifestations’ series of 20th Century Indian Art, Editions VII, VIII, IX
DAG, New Delhi, 2012-13
‘Indian Landscapes: The Changing Horizon’
DAG, New Delhi, 2012
‘Indian Portraits: The Face of a People’
DAG, New Delhi, 2013; Mumbai, 2014
‘Indian Abstracts: An Absence of Form’
DAG, New Delhi, 2014; Mumbai and New York, 2015
‘India Modern: Narratives from 20th Century Indian Art’
DAG, New York, Mumbai and New Delhi, 2015
‘The Naked and The Nude: The Body in Indian Modern Art’
DAG, New Delhi, 2015
‘India’s Rockefeller Artists: An Indo-US Cultural Saga’
DAG, New York, 2017; Mumbai, 2018
‘India’s French Connection: Indian Artists in France’