Laxman Pai
Laxman Pai Laxman Pai Laxman Pai Laxman Pai Laxman Pai Laxman Pai

Laxman Pai

Laxman Pai

Laxman Pai

1926 - 2021

Laxman Pai

The artist from Goa who brought alive the lush landscape and vibrant life of his home state in his canvases, Laxman Pai studied and later taught at
Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay.

Born in Margao, Goa, on 21 January 1926, Pai participated in Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement against the British rule that led to his imprisonment. Later, he participated in the movement to liberate Goa from centuries of Portuguese rule.

Yet, it was not the political climate of his youth but Goa that remained a source of inspiration for him. A contemporary of the other renowned artist from Goa—F. N. Souza—Pai gave expression to life’s experiences in his canvases with vigour and a richness of colour, but devoid of any commentary or moralistic narrative.

He called himself his own guru, creating a highly individual vocabulary, which was accentuated during his ten-year stay in Paris. Influenced by the works of Paul Klee, Mark Chagall, and Joan Miró, Pai created an eclectic intermingling of the traditional and the modern in his work. He explored the stylisation of Indian folk art with modern techniques such as angular simplification and flatness of the pictorial surface.

Upon his return from Paris, Pai served as the principal of the Goa College of Art (1977-87). He won many prestigious honours, such as the national award of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1961 and 1963; Gomant Vibhushan Award, the highest civilian award of the Goa government; and the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan from the government of India, among others. He passed away in Dona Paula, Goa, on 14 March 2021.

‘My personal observation is that art is mental nourishment and not physical food for survival’


artist timeline


Is born in Margao, Goa, under Portuguese occupation, to a Brahmin Hindu family. Schooling in Marathi from Damodar Vidyalaya, and in Portuguese and English from New Era High School. The state’s lush beauty and landscapes will become a recurrent source of inspiration for his work and provide him the initial impetus to pursue a career in the arts.


Is part of India’s struggle for independence by joining the Goa Liberation Movement during his final years at college, suffering political repercussions as a minor. Is tortured in police custody in Goa.


Is awarded the prestigious Mayo medal. Starts teaching at Sir J. J. School of Art (till 1951).


Exhibits with Shankar Palsikar at Bombay Art Society.


Has a solo exhibition at Bombay Art Society.


Sails for Paris with his artist friend Sadanand Bakre; they are met by artists S. H. Raza, F. N. Souza, and Akbar Padamsee, who have preceded them. While studying at École des Beaux-Arts, he is exposed to works by Paul Klee, Joan Miro, and Mark Chagall. His artistic style begins to include elements like angular simplification, the exceptional flatness of the pictorial surface and the use of expressive, rhythmical lines. During this period, he has one-man shows in Paris (frequently), London, Munich, Stuttgart, Bremen, Bombay, and New Delhi.


Pai presents a portrait of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to him at the latter’s residence in New Delhi. At a time when academic portraits are still popular, Pai’s experimentation with modern portraiture sets him apart from his peers, even when they are not always considered flattering by the hoi-polloi.


Exhibits at Galerie Dauphine, Paris.


Participates in Biennale de Paris, France, and in Le Printemps, Galerie d’ Arts, Paris. Returns to India and settles down in Bombay.


Wins Lalit Kala Akademi’s national award.


An exhibition of his works from 1948-62 is held at Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay.


Takes part in Tokyo Biennale, Japan, and Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil. Has an exhibition at Raj Bhawan, Bombay.


Has an exhibition at Shridharani Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi.


Is part of ‘Musical Moods’, a series of paintings inspired by Indian ragas, organised by Kanika Art Centre, New Delhi, and Taj Art Gallery, Bombay.


His ‘Purusha and Prakriti’ exhibition opens at Triveni, New Delhi.


Participates in a group show, ‘Dance Forms and Selection, 1947-67’, organised by All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi.


Pai’s works are part of solo exhibitions in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.


His increasingly mythological works are exhibited in Goa, New Delhi and Bombay at an exhibition titled ‘Ramayana’.


‘Human Forms’ exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay.


‘Kangra Valley’ exhibition at Kumar Art Gallery, New Delhi.


Exhibitions at Dhoomimal Art Gallery, New Delhi.


Is principal of Goa College of Art.


Is awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. The recognition is for Pai’s contribution as a painter as well as an educator. He is among a handful of artists to have won several national awards, and his penchant for exploring traditional Indian contexts through the language of modernism wins him many admirers.


Is honoured by the Government of Goa. ‘Retrospective 1947-87’ sponsored by Kala Academy for Goa, Diu, and Daman, Panaji.


An exhibition at Rabindra Bhawan, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, is organised by Kumar Gallery.


His ‘Navras’ series is exhibited at Triveni, New Delhi; another solo exhibition follows at the same venue in 1993.


Pai’s sensual, erotic works take centre stage at the ‘Purush Prakriti in Kamasutra’ exhibition and ‘Kaama and Fantasies Series’, both at Dhoomimal, New Delhi, and ‘Kaama-Krodh-Moha-Moksha’, also in New Delhi.


Is awarded the Nehru Award, Goa.


DAG’s 'Pai in Paris: Early Works' looks at the artist’s practice in the European city with an exhibition curated by Roobina Karode.


Receives the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India.


Breathes his last on March 14 at his Dona Paula residence in Goa.


dag exhibitions

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

DAG, New Delhi, 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 Abstracts: An Absence of Form’

DAG, New Delhi, 2014; Mumbai and New York, 2015

‘Indian Portraits: The Face of a People’

DAG, New Delhi, 2013; Mumbai, 2014

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

DAG, New Delhi, 2013; Mumbai, 2015

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

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

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

DAG, New Delhi, 2018; New York, 2018-19

‘Navrasa: The Nine Emotions of Art’

DAG, Mumbai and New Delhi, 2020

‘The Fifties Show’

DAG, New Delhi, 2020

‘The Sixties Show’

DAG, Mumbai, 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

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi

Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai

Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh

CITI India Corporate Collection

Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris

State Museums, Berlin

New York Public Library, New York

Ben and Abby Grey Foundation, Los Angeles

archival media

Art News & Review

11 April 1959

The Illustrated Weekly of India

8-14 May 1983

The Times of India

5 April 1987