Prabhakar Barwe
Prabhakar Barwe Prabhakar Barwe

Prabhakar Barwe



1936 - 1995

Prabhakar Barwe

Prabhakar Barwe rejected both the British academic and the Indian miniature tradition, to evolve a universal, abstract visual language that explored inward spaces and transient realities. It reflected in his phallic forms of the 1970s, isolated heads of the ’80s, and the still pendulum clocks and abandoned staircases of the ’90s.

The grandnephew of the well-known sculptor V. P. Karmakar, and the son of an artist who worked in Bombay film studios, he was born on 16 March 1936 in Nagaon, Maharashtra. He joined Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, in 1954. He was inspired by the style of the Bauhaus painter Paul Klee, which reflected in his early watercolours and slightly later works with floating motifs on a transparent surface.

The tantric-oriented abstract format of his paintings was already set during his years at the Weavers’ Service Centre in Varanasi, which he had joined in 1961. At Varanasi, along with other leading painters like K. G. Subramanyan, Gautam Waghela, and Ambadas, Barwe worked closely with weavers on the development of modern Indian textile designs.

Equally at ease with the written word, Barwe published, in 1990, a collection of well-delineated writings on the creative process, titled Kora Canvas. He received the Academy of Fine Arts award, Calcutta, in 1963, the Bombay Art Society’s awards in 1964 and 1968, the Maharashtra state award and Lalit Kala Akademi’s national award in 1976, the latter for his work, Blue Cloud. Barwe passed away in Bombay on 6 December 1995.

‘The essence of our total experience remains dormant in the recesses of our subconscious, silently awaiting the proper form of expression, manifested in terms of form, colour and space’


artist timeline


Born on 16 March at Nagaon, Maharashtra. Spends the early years of his life with his grandparents. Famous sculptor Vinayak Pandurang Karmakar is his granduncle.


Enters Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, influenced by his granduncle, where he is inspired by Paul Klee. As a reaction against the academic style, he turns towards abstraction.


Joins Weavers’ Service Centre at Banaras and works closely with K. G. Subramanyan, Gautam Waghela and Ambadas. The Centre invites leading artists of the time to collaborate with weavers for a cross-disciplinary approach towards art. This is an important period in his career as the tantric philosophy shapes his future artistic expression. Later influences include the philosophy of Tao and Zen, with his forms becoming more precise and colours muted.


Is honoured with the Academy of Fine Arts award, Calcutta. One-man show at Book Bay Gallery, Wisconsin, U.S.A.


Wins the Bombay Art Society award.


Returns to Bombay; produces a body of work that becomes part of his first solo exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery.


Solo show at Taj Art Gallery, Bombay. Wins the Bombay Art Society award.


Participates in the ‘5th International Young Artists Exhibition’, Tokyo. Wins a special award instituted by the Japanese newspaper Yoshihari Shimbun in Tokyo. Is part of the Indian Pavilion’s ‘Man and His World’ exhibition at the Montreal World Fair, Canada.


Part of the group show, ‘Indian Painters’, shown at Hamburg, Germany and Zurich, Switzerland.


Participates in the second International Triennale, New Delhi.


Begins to maintain a diary; writes a total of sixty-two dairies, mostly in Marathi, but a few in English as well.Along with his close set of artist friends, Dilip Ranade, Lalitha Lajmi, among others, forms an artist group, Astitva (Existence).


Is part of the inaugural group show at Grey Art Gallery, New York University. Participates in the third International Triennale, New Delhi. Is awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi award for his painting Blue Cloud, an ode to Kalidasa’s Sanskrit classic Meghdutam. Wins a Maharashtra state award.


Participates in the group show ‘Pictorial Space’ at Rabindra Bhavan Galleries, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.


Participates in the fourth International Triennale, New Delhi.


Has a solo show in Ahmedabad. Participates in the fifth Interntional Triennale, New Delhi.


Is part of the group show ‘Modern Indian Paintings’ at Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D. C.


Writes a letter to the Camlin Art Foundation for a specific quality of canvas, free of knots and properly primed. Later, he acknowledges Camlin’s contribution while urging the brand to be compatible with international standards.


Is selected for the U.S. government’s International Visitors programme in 1983 followed by a residency at Yaddo Artists’ Village, Saratoga Springs, New York.


Breaks down many barriers in Indian modern art by presenting the series, Kora Canvas.


Also a writer, his book on various facets of the creative process, Kora Canvas, is published in Marathi by Mouj Prakashan. It is translated into English by novelist Shanta Gokhale and published as The Blank Canvas by Bodhana Publication in 2013.


Has a full-fledged show at Chemould Gallery, Bombay.


Participates in the group show ‘Reflections and Images’, exhibited at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, and Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay.


Passes away on 6 December in Bombay at the age of fifty-nine.


An exhibition of his works is organised by Bodhana Arts and Research Foundation in Mumbai in 2013.


‘Inside the Box, a Prabhakar Barwe Retrospective’, is curated by Jesal Thaker at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, 2019. The exhibition travels the same year to the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, as ‘Astitva, a Prabhakar Barwe Retrospective’.


dag exhibitions

‘Manifestations 5: 20th Century Indian Art’

DAG, New Delhi, 2011

‘Manifestations IX: 75 Artists, 20th Century Indian Art’

DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2013-14

‘Indian Abstracts: An Absence of Form’

DAG, New Delhi, Mumbai, and New York, 2014-15

‘The Sixties Show’

DAG, Mumbai, 2020

‘Home is a Place / Interiority in Indian Art’

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

‘Iconic Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art’

DAG, Mumbai, 2021

'Tantra On The Edge: Inspirations and Experiments in Twentieth-Century Indian Art'

DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2022

notable collections

National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi

Piramal Art Foundation, Mumbai

Roopankar Museum of Fine Arts, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal

Deutsche Bank (India) Collection, Mumbai

Glenbarra Art Museum, Himeji

Ben and Abby Grey Foundation, U. S. A.

archival media

The Illustrated Weekly of India

23-24 February 1991

The Sunday Times of India

1 March 1992

The Times of India

10 February 1990

The Times of India

10 December 1995

The Telegraph

29 December 1995