K. G. Subramanyan

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K. G. Subramanyan
Born 1924 (age 91–92)
Kerala, India
Education Visva-Bharati University
Alma mater Visva-Bharati University
Occupation Painter, sculptor, muralist, printmaker, writer, academic
Movement Contextual Modernism
Spouse(s) Susheela
Children Uma
Awards Padma Shree, Kalidas Samman, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan

K. G. Subramanyan (born 1924) is one of the pioneers of Indian modern art. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2012.[1]


Subramanyan was born in 1924 in a village in Kerala, India,[2] and initially studied economics at Presidency College, Madras.[3] During freedom struggle he was actively involved and was known for his Gandhian ideology. He was even imprisoned and later banned from joining government colleges during the British Rule. The turning point of his life, as an artist, came when he visited Santiniketan to study in Kala Bhavan, the art faculty of Visva Bharati University, in the year 1944. Under the tutelage such pioneers of modern Indian art as Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij, Subramanyan studied there till 1948.

In 1951 he became a lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts in M.S. University in Baroda. He went to study briefly in London at the Slade School of Art as a British Council scholar in 1956. While having already gone back to Baroda as a professor in painting and continuing there, he did a short stint in New York as a Rockefeller Fellow in 1966.[4] In 1980, Subramanyan went back to Santiniketan to teach in his alma mater Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, in his capacity as a professor in painting, which he continued till he retired in 1989. In the same year he was made a Professor Emeritus of Visva Bharati.

Subramanyan now stays in Baroda with his daughter Uma.

Later life and Legacy[edit]

Active for more than 65 years, and alive and very contemporary at 85 K.G.Subramanyan is one of India's most engaging and influential artists. Born in Kerala in the early 20s and keenly interested in the arts since childhood, he, however, decided to study art only after an initial engagement with socialist and Gandhian activism and a short term in prison for participation in the Quit India Movement. Debarred from government colleges for his involvement in the national movement he left Madras where he was pursuing a degree in economics and moved to Santiniketan in 1944, and from the orbit of Gandhi to the orbit of Rabindranath.

As an artist he is known as one of the most versatile practitioners, having done works, apart from painting, in the traditions of mural, various craft traditions of India, toy-making, pottery, illustration & design, terracotta sculpture. His paintings are noted for their inherent wit, ironies, satire and critical social commentaries.[5]

Retrospective Show[edit]

There has been numerous retrospective shows of K.G. Subramanyan. K.G. Subramanyan, a Retrospective was the fourth and largest retrospective show of K.G. Subramanyan, which was curated by R. Siva Kumar at the National Gallery of Modern Art.[6]


  • 1951–59 Lecturer in Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1955–56 British Council Research Scholar, UK
  • 1959–61 Deputy Director (design), All India Handloom Board, Bombay
  • 1961–65 Reader in Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1966–80 Professor of Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1961–66 Design Consultant, All India
  • 1966–67 Fellowship of The JDR III Fund, New York
  • 1968–74 Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1975 Elected to the World Crafts Council
  • Delegate, Asian Assembly, World Craft Council, Sydney
  • 1976 Member delegate, General Assembly, World Craft Council, Oaxtepec, Mexico
  • Visiting lecturer, Canadian universities: Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton
  • 1977–78 Visiting Fellow, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 1980–89 Professor of Painting, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 1985 Guest, Chinese Artists Association, China
  • 1987–88 Christensen Fellow, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford
  • 1989 Professor Emeritus, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 2004 Left Santiniketan and shifted back to Baroda in September.

Honours and awards[edit]

Memberships and Associations[edit]

Has also been on the Board of studies of M.S. University, Baroda; Benaras Hindu University, Benaras; Punjab University, Chandigarh; College of Fine Arts, Trivadrum, Kerala; Faculty of Fine Arts, Bombay University; Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta etc. Member of the Editorial advisory Board of Leonardo


  • 1978 Moving Focus: Essays on Indian Art, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. (Reissued by Seagull Books, Calcutta in 2006)
  • 1987 The Living Tradition, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 1992 The Creative Circuit, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 2006 Translation of Benodebehari Mukherjee’s Chitrakar, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 2007 Poems, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 2007 The Magic of Making: Essays on Art and Culture, Seagull Books, Calcutta

Illustrated Books[edit]

  • 1969 When God First Made the Animals He Made Them All Alike
  • 1972 The Butterfly and the Cricket, A Summer Story, Robby
  • 1974 Our Friends the Ogres, The King and the Little Man
  • 1979 How Poppy Grew happy, Cat’s Night and Day, Frog Life is Fun Life
  • 1985 Of Ogres Beasts and Men (When God First Made the Animals He Made Them All Alike, Our Friends the Ogres, and The King and the Little Man reissued as a boxed set)
  • 1995 How Hanu Became Hanuman, Death in Eden, In the Zoo (All three reissued in 1996)
  • 1998 The Tale of the Talking Face


  • 1955 Jyoti Ltd., Baroda Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1963 ‘King of the Dark Chamber’, Rabindralaya, Lucknow
  • 1965 India Pavilion, New York World Fair, New York
  • 1969 ‘India of my Dreams Pavilion’, Gandhi Darshan, New Delhi
  • 1976 R & D Building, Jyoti Pvt. Ltd., Baroda
  • 1988 Sand cast Cement Mural, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan
  • 1989 Reverse painting on Glass Mural (with school children), Santiniketan
  • 1990 Black and White Mural, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan (first phase)
  • 1993 Black and White Mural, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan (second phase)
  • 2009 Black and White Mural (2nd version) Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan (Nov – Dec)


  1. ^ "Padma Awards". pib. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ K. G. Subramanyan
  5. ^ http://tinpahar.com/article/200
  6. ^ http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2009/stories/20030509000807900.htm
  7. ^ a b c "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 

External links[edit]