Mrinalini Mukherjee

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Mrinalini Mukherjee
Mrinalini Mukherjee

Died(2015-02-15)15 February 2015
Known forSculpture
AwardsNational Award for Sculpture, New Delhi

Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949-2015) was an Indian sculptor. Her primary focus was on the mediums of dyed and woven hemp.[1]

Early life[edit]

Mukherjee was born in 1949, in Bombay, India to artists Benode Behari Mukherjee and Leela Mukherjee.[2] The only child to her parents, she was brought up in the North-Indian hill town of Dehradun, where she attended school, and spent her summer vacations in Santiniketan.[3]


Mukherjee went to study Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Thereafter, she did a Post Diploma in Mural Design form the same university under the Indian artist K.G. Subramanyan who was also a member of the Fine Arts Faculty at the university. Her studies included working Italian Fresco and other conventional techniques. She worked with natural fibers as a medium for mural.[4] She received a British Council Scholarship for Sculpture in 1971 that sent her to the West Surrey College of Art and Design, where she pursued her tied-fiber works till 1978.[5]


As a sculptor, Mrinalini Mukherjee worked most intensively with natural fiber. Towards the middle and later half of her career, she also worked extensively with ceramic and bronze.

First solo exhibition[edit]

Mukherjee's first solo exhibition was held at Sridharani Art Gallery in New Delhi in 1972. It featured warped, woven forms in dyed natural fibers - a series of works that brought her recognition.[5] She named her sculptures after deities of fertility and were seen as sensual and suggestive.[5]

In 1994-95, she was invited to the Museum of Modern Art at Oxford to hold an exhibition conducted by David Elliott. The same exhibition further traveled to several cities around the England. Mukherjee has also participated in an international workshop in Netherlands in 1996. Art historian and independent curator Deepak Ananth ascribed Mukherjee’s predilection for modest, earthly materials to her influence from Subramanyan, and in turn from the history of Indian artisanal craft. In an essay entitled "The Knots are Many But the Thread is One", Ananth wrote, "As if in harmony with the vegetable realm from which her medium is derived, the leading metaphor of Mukherjee’s work comes from the organic life of plants. Improvising upon a motif or image that serves as her starting point the work’s gradual unfolding itself becomes analogous to the stirring into maturation of a sapling."[8]

Technique & Style[edit]

Mrinalini Mukherjee was influenced by traditional Indian and historic European sculpture, folk art, modern design, local crafts and textiles. Knotting was one of her main techniques; she worked intuitively and never worked based on sketches, models or preparatory drawings. [9]

The authors of Indian Contemporary Art Post-Independence dubbed Mukherjee as a "unique voice in contemporary Indian art", and remarked "The sculptures knotted painstakingly with hemp ropes in earthy or rich glowing colours evoke a fecund world of burgeoning life, lush vegetation, iconic figures." Acknowledging the note of sexuality manifested in the "phallic forms", they added "the mysterious folds and orifices, the intricate curves and drapes. There is a sensuous, tactile quality to her work which exercises a compelling hold on the viewer."[10]

Mukherjee studied under K. G. Subramanyan, and derived heavily from his artistry. Sonal Khullar writing on Subramanyan's influence on her wrote in Worldly Affliations Mukherjee a former student, "[...] use jute, wood, rope, and cow dung to create environments at once magical and mundane. Their inventiveness with visual language and investments in ordinary materials are a legacy of Subramanyan's teaching, writing and art-making."[11]


In the context of the pedagogy professed by K G Subramanyan, Mukherjee's decision to work in a material traditionally associated with her craft rather than "high art" reflects her teacher's conscious attempts to overcome what they considered to be a staple polarity in Modernism, not least in view of the extreme richness and continuing actuality of traditional artisanal skills in India and the sheer versatility of popular vernacular idioms.[12]


Mukherjee died at the age of 65, after a brief illness.[7]

Works in Public Collections[edit]

  • Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK
  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK
  • Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
  • National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
  • Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
  • Roopankar Museum of Art, Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal
  • Fine Arts Museum, Punjab University, Chandigarh
  • India Tourism Development Corporation, New Delhi
  • India Institute of Immunology, New Delhi
  • Tate Modern, London[13]
  • Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh[14]


  1. ^ "Mistress of texture". The Indian Express. 2015-02-10. Retrieved 2017-09-16.
  2. ^ Dalmia, and Datta, and Sambrini, and Jakimowicz, and Datta (1997) Indian Contemporary Art Post-Independence. p.206
  3. ^ "Education". Nature Morte.
  4. ^ a b c d Mrinalini Mukherjee, RECENT SCULPTURE IN CERAMICS , ‘In the Garden’. Defence Colony, New Delhi: Vadhera Art Gallery. 1997.
  5. ^ a b c "ArtAsiaPacific: Indian Sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee Dies At65". Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  6. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ a b Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  8. ^ Bent, Siobhan (5 February 2016). "Indian Sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee Dies At 65". ArtAsiaPacific. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  9. ^ Mrinalini Mukherjee. Shoestring Publishers. 2019. ISBN 9788190472098.
  10. ^ Dalmia, and Datta, and Sambrini, and Jakimowicz, and Datta (1997) Indian Contemporary Art Post-Independence
  11. ^ Khullar (2015) =Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990. p.134
  12. ^ Lalit Kala Contemporary 43. Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi. 200.
  13. ^ Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  14. ^ "Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh".


  • Dalmia, Yashodharea and Datta, Ella and Sambrini, Chaitnya and Jakimowicz, Martha and Datta, Santo (1997). Indian Contemporary Art Post-Independence (English). New Delhi: Ajanta Offset Ltd.
  • Khullar, Sonal (2015). Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990 (English). California: University of California Press.