sher gil


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.


“Amrita Sher-Gil (Punjabi: ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਾ ਸ਼ੇਰਗਿੱਲ; 30 January 1913 – 5 December 1941) was an eminent Indian painter. She has been called “one of the greatest avant-garde women artists of the early 20th century” and a “pioneer” in modern Indian art. Drawn to painting at a young age, Sher-Gil started getting formal lessons in the art, at the age of eight. Sher-Gil first gained recognition at the age of 19, for her oil painting entitled Young Girls (1932).

Sher-Gil traveled throughout her life, to countries including Europe, Turkey, France and India, deriving heavily from their art styles and cultures. Sher-Gil is considered an important woman painter of 20th-century India, whose legacy stands on a par with that of the pioneers of Bengal Renaissance.She was also an avid reader and a pianist.” (x)

Group of Three Girls, 1935

Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941) born to a Punjabi Sikh father and Hungarian Jewish mother is among the pioneering artists of the 20th century modern art. A highly eminent painter she is often regarded as ‘India’s Frida Kahlo’. Adopting the role of both muse and maker she depicted the plight of women and the troubling poverty in Indian society. She expresses her deep concern for this through the use of symbols of the human condition in her work. Although her life was short-lived, she left a prolific and riveting oeuvre/ body of art. Combining her distinctive post-impressionist style with her experiences and influences of her surroundings she quickly became one of the most gifted artists the pre colonial era produced. Through her defiance against social roles and norms Amrita inspired women to play a more prominent function in the art world.

sapphic history boards: painters (mostly)

listed clockwise, starting from upper left corner:

  1. Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941)
  2. Romaine Brooks (1874 –1970)
  3. Frida Kahlo   (1907 –1954)
  4. Leonore Chinn (born 1949)
  5. Rosa Bonheur (1822 –1899)
  6. Clare Atwood (1866 –1962)
  7. Virginie Bovie (1821–1888)
  8. Eva Hesse (1936 –1970)

Amrita Sher-Gil (30 January 1913 – 5 December 1941) was an eminent Indian painter born to a Punjabi Sikh father and a Hungarian Jewish mother.Today considered an important woman painter of 20th century India, whose legacy stands at par with that of the Masters of Bengal Renaissance; she is also the ‘most expensive’ woman painter of India.