Tyeb Mehta

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Tyeb Mehta
Tyeb Mehta.jpg
Born(1925-07-26)26 July 1925[1]
Kapadvanj, Gujarat, India
Died2 July 2009(2009-07-02) (aged 83)[2]
Mumbai, India
EducationSir J.J. School of Art (1952)
Known forPainting
Notable workCelebration
AwardsKalidas Samman (1988)
Padma Bhushan (2007)

Tyeb Mehta (26 July 1925 – 2 July 2009) was an Indian painter, sculptor and film maker. He was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group and the first post-colonial generation of artists in India, like John Wilkins who also broke free from the nationalist Bengal school and embraced Modernism instead, with its post-impressionist colours, cubist forms and brusque, expressionistic styles.

Among his most noted later paintings were his triptych Celebration, which when sold for Rs 15 million ($317,500) at a Christie's auction in 2002, was not only the highest sum for an Indian painting at an international auction, but also triggered the subsequent great Indian art boom;[citation needed] his other noted works were the 'Diagonal Series', Santiniketan triptych series, Kali, Mahishasura (1996).[3] He stayed and worked in Mumbai for much of his life, except for three spells at London, New York, and Santiniketan, each having a distinct impact upon his work. He received several awards during his career including the Padma Bhushan in 2007.[4][5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

Tyeb Mehta was born on 26 July 1925 in Kapadvanj, a town of Kheda district, the Indian state of Gujarat.[7] He was brought up in the Crawford Market neighbourhood of Mumbai, populated by Dawoodi Bohras. At 22 years, during the partition riots of 1947 in Mumbai, while staying at Lehri House, Mohammed Ali Road, he witnessed a man being stoned to death by a mob, this he not only expressed in a drawing but it was to have lasting impact on his work, leading to stark and often disturbing depiction of his subjects.[4][8]

For a while initially, he worked as a film editor in a cinema laboratory at Famous Studios, in Tardeo, Mumbai. Later, he received his diploma from Sir J. J. School of Art in 1952, and was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group, which drew stylistic inspiration from Western Modernism, and included greats of Indian paintings such as F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza and M.F. Husain.[9]


He left for London in 1959, where he worked and lived till 1964. Thereafter, he visited the New York City, when he was awarded a fellowship from the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund in 1968.[10] During the years the artist spent in London, Mehta's style was influenced by the expressionist works of Francis Bacon, but while in New York his work came to be characterised by minimalism.[11] He made a three-minute film, Koodal (Tamil for 'meeting place'), which he shot at the Bandra slaughter house, it won the Filmfare Critics Award in 1970.[10] He also remained an Artist-in-Residence at the Santiniketan between 1984–85, and returned to Mumbai with significant changes in his work. Common themes of his works were trussed bulls, the rickshaw puller, from here he moved to the Diagonal series, which he created through the 1970s, after accidentally discovering it in 1969, when in a moment of creative frustration he flung a black streak across his canvas.[4] Later in life, he added Falling Figures made in 1991, based on his experience of witnessing the violent death of a man in the street during the Partition of India riots of 1947,[12] Besides adding several mythological figures into his work, highlighted by the depictions of goddess Kali and demon Mahishasura.[13]

Mahishasura by Tyeb Mehta, 1997

Tyeb Mehta held the then record for the highest price an Indian painting has ever sold for at auction ($317,500 USD or 15 million Indian rupees) for Celebration at Christie's in 2002.[14] In May 2005, his painting Kali sold for 10 million Indian rupees (approximately equal to 230,000 US dollars) at Indian auction house Saffronart's online auction.[15] A reinterpretation of the tale of demon Mahishasura by Mehta showing goddess Durga locked in an embrace with the demon sold for $1.584 million.[16][17][18] In 2008 one of his paintings sold for $2 million.[19]

In December 2005, Mehta's painting Gesture was sold for 31 million Indian rupees to Ranjit Malkani, chairman of Kuomi Travel, at the Osian's auction. That made it the highest price ever paid by an Indian for a work of Indian contemporary art at auction in India at the time.[20]

Mehta's were the first works by a contemporary Indian artist to sell for over a million dollars, and indicated a burgeoning interest in Indian art by the international market; as a result, Mehta became a cultural hero.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Tyeb Mehta spent most of life in Mumbai and later in life stayed at Lokhandwala, Mumbai. He died on 2 July 2009 at a Mumbai hospital following a heart attack.[21] He is survived by his wife, Sakina, their son, Yusuf, and daughter, Himani and a number of grandchildren. He loved the works of master architect Bijoy Jain.[citation needed]


He received a fellowship from the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund in 1968, also in the same year, a gold medal for paintings at the first Triennial in New Delhi, and in 1974 the Prix Nationale at the International Festival of Painting in Cagnes-sur-Mer,[19] France, the Kalidas Samman, instituted by the Madhya Pradesh Government, in 1988, the Dayawati Modi Foundation Award for Art, Culture, and Education in 2005,[19] and the Padma Bhushan in 2007. His film 'Koodal' was awarded the Filmfare Critics' Award in 1970.[citation needed]

Mehta's work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England, and the Hirshhorn Museum. A career retrospective is scheduled for later 2009 at the National Gallery of Modern Art, in New Delhi.[19]


  • Tyeb Mehta: Ideas Images Exchanges, by Tyeb Mehta, Ranjit Hoskote, Roshan Shahani. Publisher: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2008. ISBN 81-87737-05-0.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tyeb Mehta, by Georgina and Ulli Beier. Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, 1977.
  • Svaraj: a journey with Tyeb Mehta's "Shantiniketan triptych", by Ramchandra Gandhi. Vadehra Art Gallery, 2002. ISBN 81-87737-02-6.


  1. ^ "Tyeb Mehta". Answers.com. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  2. ^ "Noted artist Tayyb Mehta dies". The Times of India. 2 July 2009. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
  3. ^ Artist Tyeb Mehta dies after long illness Reuters, 2 July 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Tyeb Mehta stood for hope over hype Nina Martyris, Times of India, 3 July 2009.
  5. ^ Tyeb Mehta, who weaved metaphor into images passes away The Economic Times, 3 July 2009.
  6. ^ Tyeb Mehta was India’s most expensive living artist, also its finest Kishore Singh, Business Standard, 3 July 2009.
  7. ^ Farooqi, Anis (1996). "Mehta, Tyeb | Grove Art". doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T056541. ISBN 978-1-884446-05-4. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  8. ^ Svaraj: a journey with Tyeb Mehta's "Shantiniketan triptych". by Ramchandra Gandhi. Vadehra Art Gallery, 2002. ISBN 81-87737-02-6. Page 60
  9. ^ 'I don't paint for money' The Times of India, 14 June 2009.
  10. ^ a b Tyeb Mehta: From filmmaker to painter The Times of India, 20 September 2002.
  11. ^ Tully, Judd. "Tyeb Mehta" Art+Auction, November 2009.
  12. ^ "Christie's First India Auction Offers Lots from The Gandhys' Collection". BLOUIN Art+Auction magazine. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  13. ^ Tyeb Mehta passes away Archived 9 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine Press Trust of India, The Statesman, 2 July 2009.
  14. ^ Rajamani, Radhika (23 January 2003). "Artist for all times". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 22 April 2003. Retrieved 17 June 2006.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ "Tyeb Metha's Kali fetches Rs 1 crore". The Times of India. 20 May 2005. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011.
  16. ^ "Bull run in art bazaar". Deccan Herald. 28 May 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2006.[dead link]
  17. ^ Sengupta, Somini (26 January 2006). "Indian Artist Enjoys His World Audience". New York Times. Retrieved 17 June 2006.
  18. ^ "Tyeb Mehta painting fetches $1.54 million". Rediff.com. 22 September 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2006.
  19. ^ a b c d e Cotter, Holland (4 July 2009). "Tyeb Mehta, Painter of Emerging India, Dies at 84". New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  20. ^ "Tyeb Mehta painting sold for Rs. 3.1 crore". Rediff.com. 5 December 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2006.
  21. ^ Tyeb Mehta dead Archived 9 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine Hindustan Times. Retrieved on 3 July 2009.

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