Retrospective on artist K.K. Hebbar being held in Bangalore

“My father did not give up smoking till the end — he said it saved his life during World War II. In 1945, he was arrested in Germany and a soldier pointed a gun at his head. Just then, a sergeant asked for a matchbox. My father offered it to him and he was excused.”

Rajani Prasanna, daughter of artist K.K. Hebbar, is full of stories of her legendary father.

She and her sister Rekha Rao have curated an exhibition titled ‘An artist's quest: K.K. Hebbar — a retrospective', which is open at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here, to showcase some of his work.

Creativity all around

“We lived in a house filled with paints and canvases, and the smell of turpentine and linseed oil. Our home crackled with culture and creative energy. Litterateurs, writers, artists used to join us for lively debates on contemporary Indian art. We have tried to capture this unique milieu in the show,” Ms. Rajani says.

Disciplinarian

She remembers him as a strict disciplinarian, who insisted that they draw at least five drawings a day. He advised them to keep a sketchbook and read a lot, as he was inspired by books and newspapers.

An unfinished sitting

Ms. Rajani picks out the portrait of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as one of her favourites on display. “She sat for an hour every month during the turbulent days of the Khalistan movement. Though she offered six sittings, she could not make it to final one as fell to her bodyguard's bullets.”

The portrait was finally completed with the help of a photograph.

She also explains how Self Portrait (Symphony), Hebbar's final self-portrait came about. “He brought a fallen almond leaf home one day, after which he began to paint it. When questioned about his fascination for it, he spoke about the life of the tree, how it grows from the earth leaf by leaf , braving all weather, until one season, the leaves fall, each one taking the colours it possess into the earth again. The leaf was a metaphor for himself, he said. Having experienced a full life, he would leave the world in a symphony of colour”.

From the archives

The show at NGMA marks the birth centenary of the artist. Most of the works on display are from the Hebbar Foundation archive.

“In this retrospective, we have taken great care to select the best of Hebbar's works spanning nearly half a century to present him as a lover of music and dance, and above all, an artist of great simplicity and integrity.”

The exhibition was inaugurated by Union Minister for Culture Kumari Selja on Saturday.

A book on the life and works of Hebbar was also launched by artist K.G. Subramanyam.

The exhibition will be on till October 20.

In an effort to boost the participation of art students from across the State in the exhibition, Ramesh Zalki, Secretary, Department of Kannada and Culture, announced that the travelling expenses of all students visiting this show would be reimbursed by the State Government.