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  • Place of origin:

    India (made)

  • Date:

    1981 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Subramanyam, K. G. (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted in oil & watercolour on acrylic sheet

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The painting depicts a bust length study of a womean leaning on a table, left hand raised to her cheek, with a large vase of flowers placed in front of her. Hanging behind her, is a picture of the Hindu goddess Kali. The painting evidences a loosely drawn composition in vibrant shades of purple, green and orange. The picture combines western painterly styles, such as that of Edgar Degas with more traditional Indian techniques. Moreover the artist has tried to recreate in a painterly manner, the effect of South Indian glass painting. This painting, which belongs to the same series as 'Goats Woman', explores the theme of female sexuality in a playful manner.

Physical description

This painting, in oil & watercolour on acrylic sheet, depicts a woman leaning on a table, left hand raised to her cheek, a large vase of flowers in front of her to the left. A picture of Kali hangs behind her. The loosely drawn composition in vibrant shades of puple, green and orange imitates South Indian glass painting and belongs to the same series as IS 184-1984 " Goats, Woman". The picture combines western models (Degas) with traditional Indian techniques.

Place of Origin

India (made)


1981 (made)


Subramanyam, K. G. (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Painted in oil & watercolour on acrylic sheet

Marks and inscriptions

Signature on right hand side.


Height: 58 cm, Width: 43 cm, Height: 61 cm with frame, Width: 46.5 cm with frame

Object history note

Purchased from Mrs Sarah Abraham. Rps 84/106 and 1997/861

Historical context note

K.G. Subramanyan is celebrated as much for his wide-ranging scholarship as for his artistic output. Born in 1924 in a Keralian village, Subramanyan initially studied economics at Presidency College in Madras. He was actively involved in the Indian freedom struggle from British rule and was a firm believer of Gandhian principles. For this reason, he was imprisoned and banned from joining all government colleges.

From 1944 to 1948, Subramanyan studied at Kala Bhavan, the art faculty of Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan, under the tutelage of modern Indian art pioneers including Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij. In 1951 he became a lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts at M.S. University in Baroda. In 1956 he went to London and studied at the Slade School of Art as a British Council fellow. From 1959 to 1961, he became deputy director of design at All India Handloom Board in Bombay and continued to be a design consultant until 1966.

In 1966 and in 1967 he went to New York as J. D. Rockefeller Fellow. From 1980 to 1989, he taught painting at Santiniketan. In 1975 and 1976, he attended the World Craft Council and lectured at various Canadian universities. In 1989 he was made a Professor Emeritus at Visva Bharati. From 1987-1988, he was an Oxford Christensen Fellow in St. Catherine's College.

In his work, Subramanyan incorporates a variety of techniques. Often he includes weaving and toy-making in an attempt to blur the Western distinction between fine art and craftsmanship. The artist is also responsible for revitalizing many indigenous craft techniques such as the use of terracotta relief tableaux and glass painting. His oeuvre can roughly be divided into three categories: large relief murals, terracotta sculptures, paintings and drawings. His boldest and most ambitious creations to date consist of relief murals and terracotta tableaux with a narrative content. Their importance is further increased by the fact that relief sculpture, a millennial indigenous craft technique, is almost entirely absent from the contemporary Indian art landscape.

As well as being a prolific artist, Subramanyan has written extensively on art history and Indian art. In 1975 he was awarded the Padma Shree by the government of India and in 1981 the prestigious Kalidas Samman art award by the government of Madhya Pradesh. In 1922 he received a Honoris Causa from the Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta and in 1993 became a Fellow of Lalit Kala Akademi in Kerala. Subramanyan lives in Baroda with his wife (2010).

Descriptive line

Painting, woman with flowers, by K. G. Subramanyam, oil and watercolour on acrylic sheet, India, 1981

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Six Indian Painters, Tate Gallery, 7 April-23 May 1982. Cat. 59.
K.G.Subramanayan. Restrospective Exhibition. Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, 192. Essay by G.M. Sheikh and N. Sheikh.
Bhavan, Rabindra, Pictorial Space, New Delhi, 1977.
Narzany, J.J. "Some new trends in Indian Sculpture".
Glimpses of wonder and beauty, Marg pub. 1979, pp.97-98, ill.p.95.
Oxford MOMA, India: Myth and Reality, 1982.


Oil colour; Watercolour; Acrylic



Subjects depicted

Woman; Vase; Portraiture; Flowers


Paintings; Bonita Trust Indian Paintings Cataloguing Project


South & South East Asia Collection

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