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Modern & Contemporary Indian Art II Modern & Contemporary Indian Art II B. PRABHA (1933 - 2001)
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Born in 1933 in Bela, near Nagpur in Maharashtra, B. Prabha was a graduate from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Bombay. After marrying artist B. Vithal in 1956, she held her first joint exhibition with him in the same year, following which, in 1958, she exhibited at the Bombay State Art Exhibition which heralded her arrival on the world art stage.
Working during a time when India had few women artists, B. Prabha claimed to have been influenced by the styles of French Impressionists as well as Amrita Shergill, drawing inspiration from the strength that showed under all kinds of adversity and inevitable fate of most Indian women at the time and is best known for her poignant oil paintings depicting graceful elongated figures of rural fisherwomen. However, what is less represented in accounts of her career is her shift from abstraction to figurative painting. The shift was a conscious one through the formulation of a new style in keeping with the Indian milieu so that her works would reach out to as many people as possible, since abstraction, she thought, would only alienate most Indian viewers.
This untitled oil on canvas is among the rare works of hers, not fixed on the figurative, but not completely abstract either. With remarkable intensity foregrounded through such a close view of writhing sinewy forms, the painting has an overt expressiveness suggesting profound sentiments and emotions. The monochrome here adds to the starkness and vigour in this struggle of forms achieved primarily through lines, creating what looks like a mass pulsating with organic force, concomitant with a heightened dynamism of loosely flowing lines, strokes and subtle drips and thus having a complexly layered ground relationship. Where the assertiveness of this mass turns to a graceful sway is a highpoint that Prabha has so charmingly articulated.
In a long and illustrious career during which she held more than 40 exhibitions both in India and abroad she also received many prestigious awards that recognized her skill across various mediums and subjects. She passed away in September 2001.