K. K. Hebbar
K. K. Hebbar K. K. Hebbar K. K. Hebbar K. K. Hebbar K. K. Hebbar K. K. Hebbar

K. K. Hebbar

K. K. Hebbar

K. K. Hebbar

1911 - 1996

K. K. Hebbar

Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar, born on 15 June 1911 near Udupi in Karnataka, showed an inclination for the arts from his childhood—his father used to make Ganesha idols.

For Hebbar, Indian classical art remained a ceaseless source of inspiration, even though he was drawn to impressionism while studying at Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, from 1934-38. His early paintings—landscapes and figural compositions in the academic style—disciplined his hand and mind and led him towards his own style.

Inspired by the Sri Lankan philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy’s discourses, Hebbar began exploring his creativity through the traditional Indian art found in Jain manuscripts, Rajput and Mughal miniatures, and the Ajanta frescos, harmoniously blending it with surrealism and abstraction in his work. Strongly inspired by Amrita Sher-Gil’s expression of the East through western techniques, Hebbar left for Europe in 1949 to explore western art further.

This exploration brought him to the Académie Julian in Paris where he studied under the impressionist painter Professor Cavailles, and later graphics at École Estienne. From 1964-75, he travelled across Europe, exhibiting his work. Upon his return, Hebbar experimented with mediums, methods and styles in order to find his own metre, even learning the classical dance form of Kathak to understand rhythm. Instinctively, he portrayed places and people as he saw them—a developing India in which he witnessed both celebration as well as suffering.

In 1976, Hebbar was selected a fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi. From 1953-73, he served as the chairman of the Artist’s Centre, Bombay, and received the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India in 1989. He passed away on 26 March 1996.

'If a work of art displays technical perfection and also expresses a certain mood, thought or idea, communication becomes more meaningful’


artist timeline


Born on 15 June at Kattingeri in Udupi district, Karnataka; father makes Ganesha idols during festivals, instilling a love for art in young Hebbar.


Joins his alma mater as faculty. Extensively paints landscapes of Kerala in this phase.


Wins gold medal of the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta.

Early 1940s

His Karla Caves, a realistic painting, becomes one of his earliest works to gain him recognition. Is inspired by miniature paintings and paints scenes of bucolic India.


Receives the gold medal of the Bombay Art Society.


Strongly influenced by Amrita Sher-Gil’s expressions of eastern sensibilities through western techniques, Hebbar leaves for Europe to explore western art further; studies painting at Académie Julian under the impressionist painter Prof. Cavailles, and, later, graphics at École Estienne; exhibits his works in an exhibition in Paris.


Exhibits in London.


Has a one-man show at Salon de Mai, Paris.


Is appointed chairman of Artists Centre, Bombay, and continues to serve at that post till 1973. Participates in group show, ‘All India Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures’, that travels to the U.S.S.R., Poland and West Germany.


Lalit Kala Akademi nominates him an ‘Eminent Artist’ at its first general council meet. Is appointed president of the Art Society of India, Bombay, a position that he holds till 1957.


Participates in Venice Biennale.


Wins Lalit Kala Akademi’s national award for his work Rhythm; wins again in 1957 for Song of the Field, and in 1958 for Mahim Darga. Is conferred the first Bombay State Art Award.


Participates in Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil. A highly regarded portrait painter, he makes several portraits of the leadership. Jawaharlal Nehru (also the subject of his portraits) unveils a portrait of Maulana Azad at Azad Bhavan, New Delhi. Tours Indonesia and is fascinated by its Hindu culture.

Late 1950s - early 1960s

Extensively paints Bombay landscapes, documenting the city.


Lalit Kala Akademi publishes his monograph as part of its Contemporary Artists Series.


Is awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.


Presents a solo show in New York. A major publication, The Singing Line, is published in Bombay by Peacock Publication. A second edition is re-issued in 1982 by New Delhi-based Abhinav Publication.


Travels extensively across Europe, exhibiting his work; upon his return, experiments with mediums, methods and styles, even learning Kathak to understand rhythm, after which music and dance figure extensively as subjects in his work.


Participates in ‘Art Now in India’ exhibition, in London and Brussels.


Bonythan Gallery, Australia, hosts the artist’s solo show.


Travels frequently to Rajasthan, often spending his days sketching.


Retrospective show is held at Rabindra Bhavan, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.


Participates in group show, ‘Drawings and Paintings’ at All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (A.I.F.A.C.S.), New Delhi. The book, An Artist’s Quest, is published by Abhinav Publivation, New Delhi.


Is awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi fellowship. Mysore University bestows an honorary doctorate on him.


Solo show, ‘Hebbar - Drawings and Paintings’, is held at Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay.


Serves as the president of the Lalit Kala Akademi, Karnataka.


‘K. K. Hebbar: Retrospective’ is held at Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay. Hebbar’s modernist trope wins him appreciation at a national level, in Bombay—a city he chronicles frequently—as well as back home in Karnataka. His early alignment with independent India’s attempts to build an egalitarian society are reflected in his work from that period.


Bestowed with the Soviet Land Nehru Award.


Is awarded the Karnataka Lalit Kala Akademi Award for distinguished artists.


Is awarded the Karnataka State Rayotsava Award.


Participates in group show, ‘Indian Drawing Today’ at Jehangir Art Gallery. Is appointed president of the Bombay Art Society, a position he serves till 1990.


Maharashtra government bestows its Gourav Puraskar on him.


Is awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.


Awarded the Gaurav Puraskar by Maharashtra Shasan.


Hebbar’s exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay, is accompanied by the book, Voyage in Images.


Solo show, ‘K. K. Hebbar: Exhibition of Paintings’, is held at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.


Is honoured by the Government of Karnataka’s Varnashilpi Venkatappa Award.


Passes away on 26 March.


The Hebbar Gallery and Art Centre supported by the K. K. Hebbar Trust is set up at Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, Manipal University. Its collection includes twenty-six portraits painted by the artist and loaned by the K. K. Hebbar Art Foundation.


dag exhibitions

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

DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2011-14

‘Indian Landscapes: The Changing Horizon’

DAG, New Delhi, 2012

‘Indian Divine: Gods & Goddesses in 19th and 20th Century Modern Art’

DAG, Delhi and Mumbai, 2014

‘Indian Portraits: The Face of a People’

DAG, New Delhi, 2013; Mumbai, 2014

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

DAG, New York, New Delhi, and Mumbai, 2015; Chandigarh, 2017

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

DAG, New Delhi, 2013: Mumbai, 2015

‘India’s French Connection: Indian Artists in France’

DAG, New Delhi and New York, 2018

‘Navrasa: The Nine Emotions of Art’

DAG, Mumbai and New Delhi, 2020

‘The Fifties Show’

DAG, New Delhi, 2020

‘New Found Lands: The Indian Landscape from Empire to Freedom’

DAG, New York, 2021; Mumbai, 2021-22

‘Indian Blue: From Realism to Abstraction’

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

‘Iconic Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art’

DAG, Mumbai, 2021

notable collections

National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi

Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai

Piramal Art Foundation, Mumbai

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Art Collection, Mumbai

Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh

Government Museum, Bengaluru

K. K. Hebbar Gallery and Art Centre, Bengaluru

Government Museum, Baroda

Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata

Birla Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata

Kala Academy, Goa

CITI India Corporate Collection

archival media

The Indian Express

22 November 1992

The Metropolis on Saturday

30-31 March 1996

The Hindu

28 April 1996

Sunday Standard Magazine

30 November 1980

The Illustrated Weekly of India

16 March 1991