[Reader-list] Bhupen Khakhar, 69, Painter, Dies; Influenced a Generation in India
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Tue Aug 19 05:40:36 IST 2003
The New York Times
August 18, 2003
Bhupen Khakhar, 69, Painter, Dies; Influenced a Generation in India
By HOLLAND COTTER
Bhupen Khakhar, a painter of social and personal narratives who was
one of the most influential artists of his generation in India, died
on Aug. 8 in Baroda, India. He was 69.
The cause was prostate cancer, said a spokesman at Bose Pacia Modern,
a Manhattan gallery that has shown his work.
Mr. Khakhar studied accounting and explored art in his spare time.
After meeting the painter Gulammohammed Sheikh in 1958, he decided to
attend art school in Baroda, where he joined a circle of
contemporaries who were shaping a new Indian art, among them Mr.
Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Nalina Malani, Vivan Sundaran and the critic
In 1962 Mr. Khakhar was introduced to Pop Art. It, as well as the
work of Henri Rousseau, David Hockney and early Italian Renaissance
painting, had a lasting effect on him, as did earlier Indian
modernism, Rajput miniature painting, popular religious art and his
own observation of urban street life.
Largely self-taught, Mr. Khakhar developed a cleanly executed, richly
colored style in oil, watercolor and gouache. His focus on
narratives, which combined daily life and fantasy, stood in contrast
to the abstraction and expressive figuration that prevailed among
progressive artists of an older generation. He set himself further
apart from the earlier generation in the 1980's when he made his
homosexuality a chief subject of his art.
This move, which was particularly audacious in a conservative South
Asian context, coincided with the rise of identity politics as a
defining feature of a multicultural art world. His work began to be
included in big international exhibitions. In 1986 he had a solo show
at the Pompidou Center in Paris. A career retrospective was organized
by the Reina Sofía National Art Center in Madrid last summer and
traveled to Britain.
Mr. Khakhar, who published short stories and a play, was the subject
of a book by the British artist Timothy Hyman and a film by Judy
Marle. Among his friends he was known for his self-deprecating
attitude toward his art. He had so little confidence in its value
that he maintained a full-time job as an accountant until he was well
into his 50's.
His companion, Vallarbhai Shah, died on July 30. Mr. Khakhar has no
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