K. H. Ara
K. H. Ara K. H. Ara K. H. Ara K. H. Ara

KH Ara



1914 - 1985

K. H. Ara

Krishnaji Howlaji Ara, a founder member of the Progressive Artists’ Group, was born in Secunderabad on 16 April 1914, but ran away to Bombay as a child.

Much later, his skills as a painter were spotted by Austrian artist and art director of The Times of India, Walter Langhammer, who encouraged him in his artistic pursuit. A self-taught artist, Ara grew up in adverse conditions and was imprisoned for participating in Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha movement. He evolved his trademark style—especially his robust nudes and still-life paintings—that is ineffably marked by a life-affirming zeitgeist.

In his art practice, Ara neither wished to shock with raw eroticism as Souza did, nor did he want to revisit folk art in the manner of Husain. He was a modernist for whom the form and language of art preceded all other social and political motivations. His art was always intuitive, imaginative, spontaneous and improvised and not deliberate or intellectual. This evolved a certain eclecticism which was neither imitative nor derivative but led him on an exploration of style on a kind of rambling journey.

Ara won several awards, beginning with the annual prizes of the Bombay Art Society, the Governor’s Prize, and an award from U.N.E.S.C.O., all before Independence. He was the founder and secretary of the Artists’ Aid Centre and trustee of the Jehangir Art Gallery, both in Bombay, and was both fellow and general council member of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. He passed away on 30 June 1985.

‘An artist must never lose his humanity or social goodwill. I feel I am more a human being than an artist and that my pictures are modest tokens of warmth and delight’



dag exhibitions

‘Continuum: Progressive Artists’ Group’

DAG, New Delhi, 2011

The ‘Manifestations’ series of 20th Century Indian Art, Editions V, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI

DAG, New Delhi, Mumbai, and New York, 2011-14

‘Indian Landscapes: The Changing Horizon’

DAG, New Delhi, 2012

‘The Naked and The Nude: The Body in Indian Modern Art'

DAG, New Delhi, 2013; Mumbai, 2015

‘Mumbai Modern: Progressive Artists’ Group, 1947-2013’

DAG, Mumbai, 2013

‘India Modern: Narratives from 20th Century Modern Art’

DAG, New York, 2015

‘Navrasa: The Nine Emotions of Art’

DAG, Mumbai and New Delhi, 2020

‘Ways of Seeing: Women Artists | Women as Muse’

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

notable collections

National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Art Collection, Mumbai

Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai

Piramal Art Foundation, Mumbai

Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata

CITI India Corporate Collection

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

archival media

The Sunday Observer

20 March 1988


14 July 1985

The Sunday Times of India

1 December 1991

The Indian Post

27 April 1989

The Sunday Observer

7 July 1985