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KG Subramanyan

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1924, Kuthuparamba, North Malabar, Kerela, India
Lives and works in Baroda, India

Subramanyan is a modern artist working with a large body of influences, from folklore to mythologies and via the history of Indian art itself. An alum of Santiniketan, one can also see its mark in his style. He works with figurative painting and is an eminent artist and art historian who has won the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan.



Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India


Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Economics., Presidency College, Chennai, India

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Draws inspiration from Folk and Mythic Characters

Subramanyan draws stylistically from folk traditions and mythic stories. Especially with his work on the series Mythologies, he uses folkish elements to represent the contemporary events . In the painting, Untitled 2013, of the series, the artist creates an enchanting tale of Ganesha and his consorts. His limbs resemble the tiger skin robed Shiva. Their vahanas, Nandi ( the cow) and mouse for Shiva and Ganesha respectively have a distorted scale. One can barely make out that it is indeed the cow. The comic intersection of their bodies and the frightened postures of the vahanas climbing the sticks is quite interesting. The painting can be read with a highly political conscience, suggestive of power, force and iconography. It has a sense of an associate image, suggestive of several things, yet nothing in particular. This particular phenomenon is the magic of his art process.

KG Subramanyan, Untitled, 2013, gouache on Ramie Paper, 22x 27”.

He is a distinctly modern artist

He started his formal training as an artist, at Kala Bhavan Shantiniketan in 1944, at the eve of the Indian independence. Throughout his career he has given great emphasis to figurations, and distorting forms, lines and patterns in his work. He has kept his medium as paintings and developed a style distinct with his body of work.

In the painting, Two Women, 1953, he creates an episodic narration of interaction between two women. He breaks the frames, using lines and colours that dilute the distinct lines. It is equally comical, as he uses hand motifs all over the place to suggest their animated gestures.

KG Subramanyan, Two Women, 1953.

Engagement in Politics is crucial to him as an artist

As a young man growing up in Colonial India, he was highly engaged in the freedom movement. He was trained under the extraordinary artists of the institution like Ramkinker Baij, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Nandalal Bose. He started his collegiate training under the school that had already established a Modern style of art, known as the Bengal School, which contributed to his work as an artist. Moreover, it was the time for upheavals in the country- political, social and economical. Artistic traditions too, were reimagining itself, to newer ways of thinking and developing itself, stepping outside its Euro-centric techniques. He was a part of the generation of artists, who truly carried the modern style in their art.

KG Subramanyan, Padmini 2, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 53 7/8 x 53 7/8".

An Art Historian and a Theoretician

He holds an in depth knowledge of various artistic traditions and is the author of five books, The Magic of Making: Essays on Art and Culture, The Living Tradition: Perspectives on Modern Indian Art, Letters, The Creative Circuit and Sketches, Scribbles, Drawings. These books cover a wide variety of artistic and academic discussions and essays about the institution of art and its evolving practice. Largely talking about styles, figurations and histories of art that led to certain developments in art making in India, Subramanyan has thus contributed significantly to the project of art theory in India. His works also have a distinct understanding of various stylistic influences.

Cover pages of two books written by KG Subramanyan.