Amrita Sher-Gil flashed through the Indian artistic horizon like an incandescent meteor. Her place in the trajectory of Indian modern art is unquestionably pre eminent. Her aesthetic sensibility shows not surprisingly a blend of European and Indian elements. Sher-Gil’s Sikh father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil was an owner of landed estates and among other things, he was also a skilled photographer. Her mother, Marie Antoinette was Hungarian. Sher-Gil’s art education was completed in Paris where she was influenced by the post impressionists like Gauguin. While her childhood years were spent travelling between India and Europe, she returned to India in the mid 30s of the 20th century with a wish to make India her home.
Many of the paintings that she did during her early years as a student in Paris were in the European style, and include a number of self-portraits. There are also many paintings of life in Paris, nude studies, still-life studies, as well as portraits of friends and fellow students. Of these a significant number of works are self portraits. These capture the artist in her many moods – somber, pensive and joyous and also clearly reveal a narcissistic streak in her personality. In ‘Self Portrait No. 7’ one can see the rich painterly treatment depicting a provocative young woman with dark, cascading hair and a teasing smile.