Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Satish Gujral – Life, Work & His Autograph

Satish Gujral is one of the greatest as well as the most versatile artist of the Indian subcontinent.As a Painter, Sculptor, Muralist, Architect & Writer he is described as a living legend, one of the few who have consistently dominated the art scene in India for entire post-independent era.
He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1999.
He is the brother of former Indian Prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral.
On 8th Feb 2003, I meet him at Jahangir Art Gallery (Mumbai) where his art exhibition was organised. One incident I still remember. In exhibition I really like his crafted burnt wooden works. I meet him & express my views about his brilliant works. He just saw my face & smiled. Then again I repeat my thoughts. Looking at me he smiled & then handshakes with me. On my request he gave me his autograph. Later on I learnt that, at that time he was reading my lips.
Here I gather some useful information about this great artist.
Satish Gujral, born in Jhelum in 23th Dec, 1925 in pre-partition West Punjab. He has won international recognition for his wide range of creativity that runs through painting, graphics, mural, sculpture, architecture and interior design.
 At the age of eight, a sickness terminally impaired his hearing. During his early years of sickness, "entombed in silence", as he said, he read Urdu literature and went on doodling with a pencil on paper. In 1939 he joined the Mayo School of Art in Lahore to study Applied Arts. The School's curriculum included various techniques for stone and woodcarving, metal smithery, clay modeling, drawing and design, to which was added scale- drawing and copying of the ground plans and elevations of old buildings.
About three years before the partition of India, he joined Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai in 1944 to study Painting. During 1944-47 he came into contact with the Progressive Artists Group in Mumbai, which included S.H. Raza, EN. Souza, P.N. Mago, Jehangir Sabavala, M.F. Husain and others. Satish Gujral could not accept the PAG's total adaptation of techniques and vocabulary of European Expressionism and Cubism. He searched for a kind of modernism rooted in Indian traditions.
In 1947 he had to discontinue his studies at the J.J. School of Art because of recurring illness. In 1952 he left for Mexico on a scholarship for an apprenticeship with Diego Rivera and David Sequeiros. The social content dominated his paintings and graphics, and the anguish of the nations who lost their homes and families during the partition of the country came out in angry, sweeping gestural brushwork in his paintings. His search was on for what was living and life- giving in the traditional arts and crafts of India, and he diversified his sculptural materials with machined industrial objects in steel, copper, glass, often painted in strong enamel colors. Later he tried out junk sculptures, introducing light and sound in them.
From 195 2 - 1974, Satish Gujral had scores of solo shows of his sculptures, paintings and graphics in Mexico City, New York, New Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Montreal, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Stockholm. Since the late '80s up to the recent years, Satish Gujral's paintings and sculptures further diversified both in terms of materials and content. Satish Gujral's sculptures in burnt wood have come with a kind of visceral exposure of forms, human and otherwise.
He executed commissions to make large murals, mostly in mosaic and ceramic tiles and later in machined steel elements, simulated his interest in their immediate architectural context.
By 1977, he executed murals for Punjab University, Chandigarh, Odeon Cinema, New Delhi (1962), World Trade Fair, New York (1963), Oberoi Hotel, New Delhi (1964), Northern Railway, New Delhi (1966), Ministry of Education, Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi (1968), Agricultural University, Hissar (1970, '73, '86), Oberoi Towers, Bombay (1971-72), The Palace of the Sultan of Muscat (1975), Delhi High Court (1976), Gandhi Institute, Mauritius (1 977) and World Trade Centre, New York (1980).
 The year 1977 is important because in that year Satish Gujral started actively exploring the elusive vocabulary of the International Style in modem architecture. He designed the Daryani House, New Delhi (1977), Modi House (1978), Gandhi Institute (1978-79), Datwani House (1979- 90), Modi House (1980-82), Belgian Embassy, New Delhi (1980-83), and Dass House, New Delhi (1983-85). In 1986 Satish Gujral designed the Goa University and the CMC, Hyderabad, Palace AI-Bwordy, Dubai, and the Indian Ambassador's house in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    • National Award for Painting (1956, 1957)
    • National Award for Sculpture (1972)
    • State Honor from the Government of Punjab (1979)
    • Order of the Crown, Belgium (for Architecture) (1983)
    • Padma Vibhushan (1999)
    • Leonardo Da Vinci Award
    • International award for Life Time Achievements (Mexico)
Satish Gujral wrote his autobiography titled as "A Brush with Life: An Autobiography"
Gayatri Sinha, Santo Dutta and Gautam Bhatia published a book "Satish Gujral : An Artography" which traces the aesthetic & personal journey of him over the last five decades.
Importatant links for Satish Gujral
Official Website of Satish Gujral is


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  2. My wife Carol and I knew them well during the 1960s, and we purchased many of Satish's works, from his ceramics to his ink drawings and his collages. As much as we admired Satish's work, we admired Satish and Kiran as friends. We got to know them both, visiting their home in Delhi and hosting them at our home in Defence Colony. They were so charming.