Women Artists in the Kerala Museum Collection

Through this exhibition, we see the works of Women Artists in the Kerala Museum Collection from the 19th century till the present date

Untitled Portrait (1990) by Mangala Bayi ThampurattiKerala Museum

The first women artist to have a studio of her own in the 19th century was Mangala Bayi Thampuratti. She was taught to paint by her uncle Raja Raja Varma while older brother Raja Ravi Varma often assisted in improving her skills. She was often asked to suggest improvements to his work too.
Mangala Bayi depicted domestic and devotional themes in her paintings. She was well-known for her portraits of women and children too. Though Mangala Bayi painted with equal proficiency as her brothers and in the same Western academic artistic style, the social structures of the era prevented women to pursue art as a profession, and so she painted only as a ‘hobby’. Her works therefore remains mostly in the homes of private collectors.

Untitled by B PrabhaKerala Museum

B. Prabha drew her inspiration from Amrita Shergil. She was moved by the lives of rural women, and over time, they became the main theme of her work.
Prabha worked mainly in oil, in an instantly recognizable style. She is best known for graceful elongated figures of pensive rural women, with each canvas in a single dominant color.

Yogi and the River of Time (2011) by Arpana CaurKerala Museum

Arpana Caur had her first exhibition at the age of nine. Caur’s engagement with issues and people, translate on to her canvases. For instance, her paintings inspired by Vrindaban widows and the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots depict her concern with social issues and human conflict. 

The literature and philosophy of Punjab influenced Caur's artistic perspective.

'Yogi and the river of time' is one of the series of Caur's work that depicts the spiritual search for time and space.

In a dark and surreal background, a meditating yogi stands on one feet besides a tree.

He is standing in a Hatha Yogic Pose or Vrikshasana (Tree Pose) with a bird on his other feet.

The texture of the tree resembles like the waves of water.

Ascension (1989) by Arpana CaurKerala Museum

She also uses symbolic figures and metaphoric elements through her works, such as the pair of dancing feet on a scale depicting the passage of time.

The Cock by Jayasri BurmanKerala Museum

Jaysri Burman studied print-making in Paris. Her work has been exhibited in the 1987 International Triennale, Germany, Gallery Sumukha in Hong Kong, Royal Cultural Centre in Amman and others.

Making a Bride (1991) by Jayasri BurmanKerala Museum

Burman works mainly in watercolor, using rich strong hues and bold themes with a mythical element—strange hybrid animals with human heads and female figures.

Untitled (1990) by Naina DalalKerala Museum

Naina Dalal studied painting at Baroda under KG Subramanyan and later trained in printmaking in London and New York. This painting captures an inescapable moment of the human condition.

The figure in her paintings are most often a woman depicted as the bearer of suffering.

Piles of dead bodies lie on top of each other, depicting the fear, pain and madness of society's pitiable condition. There are two crows showing symbolic references to death as they scavenge the dead bodies.

There are also bodies lying in the grass

The Bench and the slippers (1981) by Naina DalalKerala Museum

Together with her father, artist Ratan Parimoo, she’s brought out a complete book titled 'The Art of Naina Dalal: Contemporary Indian Printmaker'. It has articles, commentary and critiques of Dalal’s work over the years, along with detailed prints of her work and process.

Bench III (1983) by Naina DalalKerala Museum

Naina Dalal has had several solo, group and a retrospective show of graphics to her credit in various parts of India and abroad. She has also received several awards and fellowships.

The Bench Series gives us an insight into our innermost sentiments of an endless journey of displacement and belonging. Through this series, Naina Dal has beautifully depicted one's isolation in nature's lap.

The Bench and the slippers (1981) by Naina DalalKerala Museum

The female figure and the shoes left alone in a silent somber space near the bench evoke feelings of isolation and abandonment

Over a passage of time (1993) by Rekha RodwittiyaKerala Museum

Rekha Rodwittiya belongs to a generation of artists that sought to make visible their clearly articulated feminist intentions in their art. Commenting on her artistic practice, Rodwittiya says –

“My work displays a consistent involvement with the human figure as a leitmotif to embody man’s predicament. I’ve also made a conscious choice to engage with the delineation of the female figure over time”.

Harlet and the lotus dream (1992) by Rekha RodwittiyaKerala Museum

Her works are in various private and public collections in India, U.K., U.S.A., Brazil, Italy, West Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Play (1986) by Rini DhumalKerala Museum

Rini Dhumal was a student of Shantiniketan. She studied printmaking under Somnath Hore at Shantiniketan and painting under KG Subramanyan at Baroda, where she also later taught for 18 years.

Magician (1992) by Rini DhumalKerala Museum

Her works predominantly engage with issues of gender. Strong female figures consistently appear in her works. She participated in several national and international exhibitions.

The diversity of the paintings by Women Artists in the Kerala Museum Collection points to their readiness in the exploration of various mediums of art.

Credits: Story

Exhibit curator:
Gopika Krishnan & Jyothi Elza George

Content Editors:
Arundhathy Nayar
Aditi Nayar

Malayalam Translator:
Geeta Nayar

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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