Akbar Padamsee is a contemporary modern Indian painter who has the same stature as the renowned artists M.F. Hussain, S.H. Raza and Francis Newton Souza. His paintings are among the most valuable of modern Indian artists, which can be judged from the astonishing fact that one of his paintings, Reclining Nude, was auctioned for $1.4 million by Sotheby’s in New York in 2011. His painting, Greek Landscape, sold for Rs. 19 crores or $2.9 million, at an auction in 2016.
He has worked with several mediums such as oil, plastic emulsion, water color; and has also done sculpture, printmaking, film making, photography, engraving and lithography. He has held solo exhibition in New York, Montreal, London, Paris, Tokyo and Palo Alto; besides several in Mumbai and other metros in India.
He has received the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship in 1962, and the Kalidas Samman in 1997. He was awarded one of the highest civilian honors by the Government of India; the Padma Bhushan in 2010.
Childhood and Early Life
Padamsee was born on 12 April 1928 in Mumbai, Maharashtra. He belonged to a Khoja Muslim family, whose ancestors were the Charanyas caste of court musicians and bards.
It is said that his grandfather, who was a sarpanch in a village, donated his granary to the villagers during a famine. He earned the honorific Padamshree which later on became the family surname Padamsee.
Akbar’s father, Hassan Padamsee, was a rich businessman who had a glassware and furniture business, besides owning 10 buildings. Jenabhai Padamsee, his mother was a housewife.
Akbar was one of the eight siblings. The famous playwright Alyque Padamsee is his brother. Akbar was interested in arts and drawing since his childhood.
He studied at St. Xavier’s High School in Mumbai where he met his teacher who was a water color artist. He also enrolled in painting classes and practised on his own.
He joined the Sir J.J. School of Arts directly in third year.
He also joined the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) which was formed in 1947 by Francis Newton Souza, S. H. Raza and M. F. Husain.
In 1951, Padamsee went to Paris in the company of artist S.H. Raza, who got a French government scholarship.
In Paris, he was introduced by artist Krishna Reddy to the surrealist artist Stanley Hayter, who became his next mentor. Padmasee joined his studio, Atelier 17.
Akbar Padamsee had his first exhibition in Paris in 1952.
In 1954, he held his first solo exhibition at the Jehangir Art Gallery in 1954. He became a leading artist soon afterwards.
In 1962, he was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi Gold medal; and in 1965 a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation.
He went to U.S. on an invitation to be an artist-in-residence by the University of Wisconsin–Stout.
In 1967, he returned to India.
He helped in the development of the collections of the Bharat Bhawan museum in Bhopal, created the Vision Exchange Workshop, VIEW and curated major cultural events.
He received the Padma Bhushan in 2010.
His paintings are introspective and his topics include landscapes, nudes, heads etc.
He has done portraits in pencil and charcoal. His oil-based works are known for their depths.
His Metascapes or Mirror Images are abstract images.
Padamsee has also done black and white photography using light to create dimension. He has also done films and explored computer art, Compugraphics.
Akbar married Solange Gounelle in Paris in 1954. The couple had a daughter Raissa Padamsee. Akbar returned to India in 1968. He lives in South Mumbai with his wife Bhanumati, and works at his studio in Prabhadevi. He holds at regular intervals, exhibition of his paintings.
Quotes by Akbar Padamsee
“I never work out my colours by how they look, but by how they move.”
“The conscious mind is like a monkey bitten by a scorpion. It is never still. As a result most of our unconscious feelings escape us. An artist needs to be in silence.”
“I can start a colour, make it go faster, and then bring it to a screening halt. But only an artist will sense its speed, the viewer will only register a change of colour.”
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah