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B Prabha

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1933, Bela, India
Died 2001, Nagpur, India
Lived and worked in Mumbai

B. Prabha was one of the few Indian women artists that the twentieth century saw. At the core of her art was a subconscious motive to bring forth the trials and tribulations that the Indian woman faces everyday but bears the agony silently. Her elongated figures painted in deep organic colors with white present in all her works have given her paintings a unique identity.



Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, India


Nagpur School of Art, Nagpur, India

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A versatile painter with an inclination towards oil paints

Her early works were modern, freely rendered paintings. Gradually, she started experimenting and soon developed what was to be recognized as her signature style. We can see a certain dynamism in her work over the years. The formal is an example of her earlier works whereas the latter is from her later practice.

She experimented with styles and subjects after obtaining her college degree from J.J. School of Art, Bombay. She began with watercolours around 1950s and went on to experiment with Gouache and acrylics, finally settling on the simplicity of oil paints by mid 1960s. Oil paints proved to be ideal for the earthy themes like landscapes and fisherwomen that she painted and for most part of her artistic career, she continued in this medium.

B Prabha, Untitled, 1956, gouache and watercolour on board

B Prabha, Untitled, acrylic on paper

Aim to paint the trauma and tragedy of women

"It is my aim to paint the trauma and tragedy of women" .Her paintings are the perfect testimony to her commitment to this belief.

Since childhood, she aspired to be a painter, which was a daring feat in itself at a time when there were not many women painters in the country. She drew inspiration from Amrita Shergil who also painted the plight of women in Indian society.

Prabha observed both urban and rural women in great detail in order to paint not just their lives, but also their sentiments. She found different women belonging to different strata of the society to be suffering differently and bearing with the weight without a murmur.

B Prabha, Untitled, 1972, oil on canvas

B Prabha, Untitled, 1972, oil on canvas

Social issues at the heart of her artwork

She believed that painters cannot work in isolation as it is their role in society to represent the underrepresented and voice the hidden ills. Her paintings include themes as varied as languid landscapes as well as pressing social issues like droughts, homelessness, hunger, poverty, oppression, plight of minorities, difficulties of motherhood among many others.

Her art also shows the interesting journey of her life from a humble village to the hustle-bustle of a metropolitan city. After her marriage to B. Vithal, her art transformed from modern abstract to figurative paintings.

B Prabha, Fisherwomen I, 1976, oil on canvas

B Prabha, Untitled, 1963, oil on canvas

Themes of poverty and struggles of motherhood are visible in her paintings.

The distinctive features and colors in her paintings

B Prabha is known for her rustic representation of women with their distinctive hairstyles and bright sarees. Her figures have elongated necks, arms and torsos with sharp features and dark colours. Her style was inspired by French impressionists, while her content and colours were purely Indian. Her pallete consists of yellow ochres, deep blues, fern greens, Indian reds, burnt siennas and the mandatory white to depict purity in everything from clothes to houses to flowers.

Her paintings are usually dominated with one single color that creates a monochromatic finish, giving the image an eternal appearance.

B Prabha, Untitled, 1983, oil on canvas

B Prabha, Untitled, 1963, oil on canvas