Book Club : Amrita Sher-Gill A Life

‘Never judge a book by its cover’ so the wise men say, but I am guilty of commiting this crime ever so often, the most recent one being this book, Amrita Sher-Gill a Life.
I saw the cover in a magazine, I was intrigued by the alluring beauty that stood out through the shades of black and white. There was a confidence in her eyes, personality in  her style, genius in her mind and mystery in her life. That really is all I knew about Amrita Sher-Gill, when I picked up the book – that she was a great artist, a rebel, who mysteriously died at the age of 28.
I wanted to know more, but I had no idea what to expect…so I set out reading..
Honestly, there were parts that I loved, parts that left me scandalized, parts that left me bored, bits that taught me about history and took me to the 1930′s and 40′s, it also left me with questions and some sympathy.

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Image fridaygurgaon.com

Here is what I learnt and thought about while reading the book.

1. It taught me plenty about art. Before the book a painting to me was just a lot of colours..it was bright or dark, happy or sad – thats it. But a painting is so much more, its a book without the words, its about what the artist is feeling seeing and experiencing, without uttering a word. So will I soon be in an art gallery analysing a painting for hours, glass of wine keeping me company – NO..but I do respect the craft much more now, I can see the story it tells.

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2. It took me to Paris, Russia, Simla, Lahore and so many places. What amused me most was that it showed me a different side of these places during the World War and during the Indian independence struggle. I only saw what the history books showed me, the injustice, the inequality, the pain and the turmoil, however there seems to have been a parallel world, the world of the wealthy. There was the theater, there were malls, there were dinner parties with British aristocrats, there was art and there was so much more that I had never known.

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Image viewamazingworld.com

3. I was left scandalized by the number of affairs and casual flings Amrita had in-spite of having a conservative Indian father and come on it was like 1935 wasnt everyone supposed to be good and conservative?

4. The book also made me feel like life was very unfair to her. She now, is known to be such an acclaimed artist who spearheaded the modern art movement in India.  Her paintings are now worth a fortune, but while she was alive she could barely make ends meet. She was depressed for a while due to the lack of money in her life.

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 Indira and Amrita as kids

5. Now for the hardest thing…the mother daughter relationship..
The mother was very controlling, sacrificed a lot for her daughters, ensured a great education for them and wished for them to get married into well to do households so that they would live comfortable lives. BUT Amrita being a rebel, married her cousin Victor against the wishes of her mother. That soured the mother daughter relationship forever and Amrita had to live a difficult life due to scarce resources. I know her mother was not entirely right, but was she so wrong??

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Amrita Sher-Gill – A Life is a fascinating read, especially if you are an art and history enthusiast. Amrita also was a chic dresser. Even though, after she moved back to India, she decided to wear only sari’s accessorized with tribal Indian jewellery she made heads turn and rooms went silent each time she entered. Such was the charisma and charm of the rebel and the genius artist.

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