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Amrita Sher-gil's painting becomes most expensive work by an Indian ever

The 1937 painting 'The Story Teller' fetched a whopping Rs 61.8 crore at Saffronart's 'Evening Sale: Modern Art' in New Delhi

amrita sher-gil

Amrita Sher-gil (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

BS Web Team New Delhi

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Amrita Sher-gil's painting "The Story Teller" has become the most expensive work of an Indian artist ever, a title earlier held by Sayed Haider Raza's "Gestation". The 1937 artwork fetched a whopping Rs 61.8 crore at Saffronart's "Evening Sale: Modern Art" in New Delhi.

Hungarian-Indian painter Sher-gil is known as one of the greatest avant-garde painters of the early 20th century. "The Story Teller" was among the 70-plus art pieces by eminent artists, including MF Husain, VS Gaitonde, Jamini Roy and FS Souza, featured in the auction.

Artist Amrita Sher-Gill's painting 'The Story Teller'. (PTI Photo)
Artist Amrita Sher-Gill's painting 'The Story Teller'. (PTI Photo)

Last month, Raza's 1989 "Gestation", also an oil-on-canvas painting, was sold at Rs 51.75 crore by Pundole's auction house in Mumbai.

"We are delighted to have set multiple artist records at our Evening Sale in New Delhi this September. Most significantly, the record price achieved by Amrita Sher-Gil's 'The Story Teller' is an important milestone in the Indian art market and a testament to the artist's immense skill and enduring legacy as one of India's art treasures," said Dinesh Vazirani, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Saffronart, as reported by PTI.

"The Story Teller", touted to be among the 12 works selected by Sher-Gil herself as her most important works, is widely considered an example of the artist's most honest and expressive compositions.

The dominant subjects for the eminent artist were women, primarily because she could lend her empathetic self most easily to their condition. The painting was first exhibited at Sher-Gil's successful solo exhibition at Faletti's Hotel, Lahore, in November 1937.

Her other well-known portraits of women include "Three Girls", "Women on the Charpai", "Hill Women", and "Young Girls".

Who was Amrita Sher-gil?

Born to an Indian father and a Hungarian mother on January 30, 1913, in Budapest, Hungary, Sher-Gil came to be known as one of the greatest avant-garde women artists for her oeuvre. From the early age of five, Sher-Gil immersed herself in drawing and painting with watercolour. Her early works consisted of vibrant illustrations of Hungarian fairy tales with captivating characters. In 1921, the Sher-Gil family returned to India and settled in Shimla.

It was there that she honed her observational skills, capturing the essence of those around her through meticulous sketches. She died at the young age of 28 in 1941. In 1976, she was declared one of India's nine "National Art Treasure" artists by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Besides Sher-Gil, the auction smashed a few other records as well. For instance, renowned painter and art educator KK Hebbar's 1959 untitled work, sold for Rs 2.64 crore -- more than seven times its higher estimate -- made a world record for the highest price achieved by the artist globally.

It also witnessed the sale of Raza's monumental work "Earth" for Rs 19.2 crore, early expressionist Tyeb Mehta's "Red Figure" for Rs 9 crore and FN Souza's "Caribbean Palm" for Rs 4.56 crore.

(With agency inputs)

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First Published: Sep 18 2023 | 5:03 PM IST

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