S. K. Bakre
S. K. Bakre S. K. Bakre S. K. Bakre

S. K. Bakre



1920 - 2007

S. K. Bakre

Sadanandji K. Bakre's preoccupation with abstraction in his sculptures was inspired by Paul Klee’s lyricism and Picasso’s de-structuring of form.

A founding member of the Progressive Artists’ Group, he was born in Baroda, Gujarat, on 10 November 1920. Bakre obtained a diploma in modelling and stone carving from Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, following which he was a pilot with the Air Force during the Second World War.

In 1947, along with his friend F. N. Souza, Bakre founded the Progressive Artists’ Group, which was joined by S. H. Raza, K. H. Ara, H. A. Gade, and M. F. Husain, as founder members.

Rudi von Leyden, a leading voice of the Indian art scene in the mid-twentieth century, introduced Bakre to the modernist movements of the U.S. and Europe, and helped mentor his ideology. Dissatisfied with the contemporary art scene in India at the time, Bakre left for London to pursue his career and earned international renown, both as a sculptor and painter.

Bakre potentialised the human form by transforming it through distortion, fragmentation, and partial elimination. His canvases were executed in a sculptural manner depicting geometrical grids and abstracted human forms in a two-dimensional pattern. The bold and bright colours highlighted the contrast of straight and curved lines.

A much-feted artist, Bakre returned to India in the later years to lead a recluse’s life. He passed away in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, on 18 December 2007.

'...my interest in forms has gone far beyond the dull imitations of subject matter,
which to me is almost unimportant’


artist timeline


Born on November 10 in Baroda, Gujarat. His father, Krishnarao D. Bakre, a railway mechanic in Surat, is a former wrestler who is adept in sword-fighting, horse-riding, and music. Bakre’s uncle, his father’s brother, is a photographer in Nagpur running the studio ‘Kale and Bakre’. It is under his early guidance that young Bakre spends his summer holidays, gaining his earliest skills in terms of using a brush and paint.


Comes to Bombay at the age of nine with his family for his education.


At the age of twelve he is sent for training to sculptor Raghunath Phadke. Bakre collects lumps of clay that his teacher discards, carries them home and fashions them into whatever takes his fancy. Phadke looks at these works by accident, appreciating his apprentice’s talent, promptly bringing him on board for a Ganesh idol that he designs with Bakre for the festive season.


At the age of sixteen, holds his first solo exhibition at Gokhale Education Society, Bombay.


Enrols at Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, for a five-year course in modelling and stone-carving.


Being an outstanding student, receives scholarships from the art school. Gains early recognition with awards in sculpture from Bombay Art Society’s annual exhibitions. Some of these include cash prize from Maharaja of Bhavnagar in sculpture (1940); certificate in sculpture (1941); Sir Cowasji Jehangir ‘first prize’ in sculpture (1942); Raja Saheb of Bhore cash prize in sculpture. Is awarded with a bronze medal in sculpture from Kolhapur Art Society.


Receives the prestigious Lord Harding’s scholarship; awarded the annual Lord Mayo gold medal by J. J. School of Art, Bombay.


Awarded ‘Professor O. V. Muller Memorial Cash Prize’ from Bombay Art Society. Joins the Civil Aviation Flying School of the Government of India. Is transferred to Karachi Airport.


Returns to Bombay, India.


Joins the Progressive Artists’ Group with F. N. Souza, S. H. Raza, M. F. Husain, K. H. Ara, and H. A. Gade. The collective’s manifesto declares a breaking away from the academic style of art. The group’s agenda emphasizes a liberation from the restrictions of set styles, painting, and sculpting in a language which is significant to the changing times.


Receives cash prizes from Bombay Art Society, including the Late Rustom Sodio Memorial Cash Prize for the best work in oil painting, and the President Sir Cowasji Jehangir Cash Prize in sculpture. Separately, awarded the silver medal for best work in sculpture from Bombay Art Society.


Progressive Artists’ Group shows in Bombay, Baroda, and Ahmedabad. Receives cash prizes from Hyderabad Art Society, including the Princess of Berar Cash Prize for the best sculpture, and the first prize in the ‘best portrait’ category. Is awarded the silver medal from Hyderabad Art Society.


Makes a compelling bust of Wayne Hartwell, head of United States Information Service, in Bombay. Certificate in sculpture and President Cowasji Jehangir Prize for best sculpture from Bombay Art Society.


Solo show at Bombay Art Society salon, Bombay. Works on painting the sets for artist and filmmaker Bal Chhabda’s Do Raha, for which he is paid handsomely. The artist uses the money to buy two tickets on a ship bound for London. The second ticket is intended for M. F. Husain though its unexpected beneficiary turns out to be Laxman Pai. Goes to London. Does an assortment of jobs there such as coal miner, hospital porter, railway porter, mortuary worker, postman, graveyard mason, and carver. Meets Dorothy, a German nurse, whom he subsequently marries.


Is assigned to do photographic work for Indian High Commission, London.


Participates in a group show with M. F. Husain and F. N. Souza at Galerie Palette, Zurich, and a group exhibition in Rome.


Starts working at a jeweller’s shop in Bond Street, London. Begins to design costume jewellery and makes designs in gold, silver and platinum. His intricate designs become very popular. One bracelet design with a picture of Elvis Presley, which the artist creates, is a bestseller. Tries his hand at restoration of brass musical instruments. Group show at Galerie R. Creuze, Paris.


Solo exhibition and also a group exhibition at Woodstock Gallery, London.


Group and solo shows at Gallery One, London.


Trained in the academic style, the artist, between the mid- and late 1950s, creates unusual and dynamic spiky forms in exceptionally bright colours. Inspired by Paul Klee’s lyricism and Pablo Picasso’s de-structuring of form, starts bringing to his paintings a sculptural quality that critics describe as more structural than painterly. Flat, bright colours with ‘visibly quick and terse brushstrokes’ can be increasingly seen during the phase of the ’60s, highlighting his artistic command in still-life studies and landscapes even as the human form gets transformed by way of distortion, fragmentation and partial elimination. The international media takes note of the artist’s talent, The Times, London, noting the deftness with which the paintings get a unique, sculpturesque third dimension.


Group exhibitions at Bear Lane Gallery, London, and Commonwealth Art Exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum, U.K.


Solo show at Commonwealth Institute, London, and a group show at Grand Palais de Champs-Elysees Salon, Paris. The Guardian’s Eric Newton reviews his work.


Solo show at Centaur Gallery, London; and a group exhibition at International Premiere Art Exhibition, Saigon.


Solo exhibitions at Gallery Private Bale, Switzerland; Plattesberg International Art Festival, U.S.A., among other galleries in and around Michigan, U.S.A.


Solo shows at Taj Gallery, and Gallery Chemould, both in Bombay. His essay, ‘All Art is Either Good or Bad’ is published in Free Press Bulletin.


Solo shows at Pundole Gallery, Bombay; and Burton Art Gallery, Wirral, England.


Group exhibition at Mermaid Theatre, London.


Solo exhibitions at Fiddes Watt Gallery, and Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, both in London.


Solo show at Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London.


Returns to India after a bitter divorce and loss of money. He chooses a small, picturesque Konkan village, Murud-Harnai, in coastal Maharashtra to settle in. There, he does gardening, teaches at a local art school, besides continuing to sculpt and paint. In the artist’s own words, ‘I paint as I like. It is a compelling passion with me to keep alive, and I cannot help painting or sculpting.’


Part of the group show, ‘The Moderns’, at National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai. Participates in ‘Distillations’ at Birla Art Academy, Mumbai, India.


Solo exhibition, ‘Paintings and Sculptures’ at Son-et-Lumiere Art Gallery, Mumbai.


Personal struggles force the artist to become more of a recluse. In an interview for the weekly Sunday magazine, he lashes out at the art establishment and at artist M. F. Husain: ‘He has no time to talk to me. He dismisses me like I was a pariah.’


Has a show in Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, for which there is critical appreciation in the media. One report describes the artist as a ‘multifaceted genius who has created wondrous art with whatever material has come his way and breathed a godlike character into his capacity to sculpt, paint, and draw his vision of life and living’.

Around this time, the media also starts reporting on the artist’s dwindling finances and poor health, thus, bringing to the attention of the art fraternity his sorry state of affairs.


Represented in DAG’s ‘Manifestations’ in New Delhi and Mumbai along with other group exhibitions in Rabindra Bhawan and Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, and Mumbai. Continues to show in most ‘Manifestations’ series in later years along with other important exhibitions in DAG.


Receives a lifetime achievement award from Bombay Art Society.


Suffers a heart attack on December 18 and dies on his way to the hospital after an oxygen cylinder at his home runs out. In an interview published posthumously, which he gives to a website a week before his death, lashes out against the ‘mafia’ of art dealers and galleries, calling some of his former Progressive Artists’ Group members ‘opportunists’, accusing them of manipulating the media. In the interview, he accuses people of stealing his works and his friends for not looking after him given his poor health.


Shows in the exhibition ‘The Progressives and Associates’, Grosvenor Gallery, London.


An assemblage of cast aluminium sculptural pieces is conceptualised by DAG and is a major attraction at its booth at India Art Fair, New Delhi.


dag exhibitions

‘Continuum: Progressive Artists’ Group'

DAG, New Delhi, 2011

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

DAG, New Delhi and Mumbai, 2012-14

‘Indian Landscapes: The Changing Horizon’

DAG, New Delhi, 2012

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

DAG, Mumbai, 2013

‘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, New Delhi, and Mumbai, 2015; Chandigarh, 2017

‘Memory & Identity: Indian Artists Abroad’

DAG, New York, 2016; Mumbai, 2017

‘The Fifties Show’

DAG, New Delhi, 2020

‘The Sixties Show’

DAG, Mumbai, 2020

‘Home is a Place: Interiority in Indian Art’

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

‘Indian Blue: From Realism to Abstraction’

DAG, New Delhi, 2021

notable collections

National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi

Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Mumbai

Piramal Art Foundation, Mumbai

Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh

archival media

The Times of India

31 May 1998


4 November 2002

The Indian Express

8 November 2002