Queer Profile: Amrita Sher-Gil
Amrita was a popular Indian painter sometimes referred to as “India’s
Frida Khalo.” Born in Budapest, Hungary on the 30th of January 1913, she
was raised by her Punjabi Sikh father and Hungarian-Jewish mother. This
parentage offered an identity struggle throughout the artist’s life.
Caught between Western and Indian origins, Amrita donned her sari on
some days; but on other occasions, she leaned more towards Western fashion.
At the age of sixteen, Amrita moved to Paris to study at the École de
Beaux-Arts. It was here that her father reported she had multiple
affairs with both men and women. Her explanation was, “How can one feel
the beauty of a form, the intensity or the subtlety of a color, the
quality of a line, unless she is a sensualist of the eyes?” Once she and her family moved to India, her affairs with women grew to be well-known. Unfortunately, many of her intimate letters were burned by her usually liberal parents because of this. Her
paintings, not unlike those of Khalo, challenged the views of the public
on the sexuality and expectations of women. Her paintings of daily life in India are some of the most popular and realistic. Amrita Sher-Gil died at the age of 28 after hemorrhaging from an unsuccessful abortion, leaving her legacy behind in an abundance of paintings.
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