One for the Album

Amrita once said that just as Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse and many others, India belongs to her. She was an icon of modern Indian art," said Navina Sundaram, who paid a glowing tribute to her aunt as she presented the film, Amrita Sher-Gil, a Family Album. The film — screened as part of the Amrita Sher-Gil National Art Week by Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi — is an account of the life and work of Sher-Gil. The 37-minute film has been made using old photographs, diary entries, newspaper clippings, letters and anecdotes, told to Sundaram by her mother — Sher-Gil's sister, Indira. 

Sundaram, a television journalist and independent filmmaker based in Germany, said that the film is a result of extensive research to highlight Sher-Gil's extraordinary journey as an artist. "From Europe to India, my aunt's quest was to depict people's lives and evolve herself in her chosen medium. The film not only shows how gifted an artist she was, but also her encyclopedic knowledge about her subject," said Sundaram.

Sher-Gil's growing-up years in Shimla and Hungary, owing to her artistically inclined family that frequently travelled between Europe and India, made Sher-Gil feel at ease at both places. The film is biographical, with Sundaram highlighting the influences on Amrita's life, her art education in Paris, her friends, relationship with and her parents through her art and letters. "It gives an insight into her thought process and how she was outspoken, honest and cosmopolitan," said Sundaram, who has traced the artist's works that depicted sensuality beyond the physical. From 1929 to 1934, Sher-Gil lived in Paris that was brimming with great creative energy. She studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and was influenced by Paul Gauguin.

Sundaram also showcased many of Sher-Gil's works, which deal with the female form, and moved to her return to India in 1934 and the influence of southern India on her works, panning on her discovery of the classical and medieval Indian art. "My aunt believed that art must be connected to the people if it has to be vital," said Sundaram.

Recounting Sher-Gil's marriage to her cousin Victor (a period of "paralysis of the spirit"), her move to Lahore to satisfy her artistic, creative and intellectual urges, and her untimely death in 1941 — Sundaram brings the legend closer to people. "She died young at 28. Her life is an unfinished project. Nevertheless, she is an icon of Indian modern art," said Sundaram.

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