KH Ara, one of the founders of the Progressive Artist’s group in Mumbai is a leading Modern master of Indian Art. Known for his still lifes, nudes and portraits, Ara, over time began to paint with studied precision and the consistent distribution of colour. Nissim Ezekiel, an art critic, described him as the first contemporary Indian painter to meticulously use the female nude as a subject, not straying from the limits of naturalism, unlike colleagues like F N Souza. Ara began his journey of art with a fair degree of academism, with scenes from his surroundings and portraits reminiscent of Bombay’s colonial painters, following which elements of the Bengal School began to show in his work. The influences of Cezanne and Matisse were evident in his still lives of forties and fifties, and though fluent with the formal ways of Modernism, Ara also successfully drew inspiration from the classics. His favoured media initially were watercolours and gouaches, which would at times resemble oils in the impasto effect.
Exhibitions and Awards
Since his first solo show in 1942 in Mumbai, Ara has had several other solo and group shows, including many with the Progressive Artists Group from 1948 to 1955 in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Baroda and Kolkata. His works have also been exhibited in galleries in Japan, Russia, Germany, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. In 1944, he received the prestigious Governor’s Award for Painting, and went on to win the Bombay Art Society’s Gold Medal in 1952 for his canvas titled ‘Two Jugs’. Some of Ara’s significant works are part of the Cowsaji Jehangir Family and the Rudi von Leyden Family.