To mark the 70th birthday of contemporary Indian artist Anjolie Ela Menon a biography spanning over half a decade of her career has been launched along with an exhibition featuring works highlighting significant phases of the artist’s life.

Filmmaker Shyam Benegal released the book in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur in New Delhi on Friday.

The over 370-page tome “Anjolie Ela Menon: Through the Patina,” by noted art critic Isana Murty, the pen name for defence analyst C. Uday Bhaskar and published by Vadhera Art Gallery is filled with pictures and essays on her life and work spanning 55 years.

The exhibition which will be continue for one month features 70 artworks - both retrospective and recent- by Menon from different phases in her life.

“I saw her work for the first time in in Mumbai around 50 years ago. At that time what struck me was that her work seemed very fresh and the choice of subject matter, colouring and the painterly quality in which she excels all that was present,” said Mr. Shyam Benegal after launching the biography.

“She gifted a small painting of Christ’s head which I still possess,” Mr. Benegal told PTI on the sidelines of the exhibition party on Friday.

Anjolie Ela Menon occupies a distinctive niche in contemporary Indian art and since her first exhibition in 1958, her oil on masonite paintings and mixed-media works have continued to intrigue and enthral art lovers- both in India and abroad.

Often associated with the haunting female nude, Ms. Menon’s oeuvre over the last six decades is vast and spans many genres, says the book.

Author Bhaskar or “Isana Murty” who took 3 years to complete the book said, “I saw her work in Vizag more than 30 years ago and immediately I could relate to it. I did not know why at that time. It was the same when I heard ustaad Amir Khan singing the raga hamsadhwani but did not know why.”

The Prime Minister’s wife Gursharan Kaur who admires art said she could not pinpoint any particular work. “I quite like all of them and cannot single out anything.”

Born in West Bengal on July 17, 1940 to mixed Bengal and American patronage, Ms. Menon studied art at the J. J. Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai and later earned a degree in English Literature from Delhi University. She was drawn to works of Modigliani, and Indian painters, M. F. Husain and Amrita Shergil.

At the age of 18, Ajolie Ela Menon held a solo exhibition and travelled extensively in Europe and West Asia studying Romanesque and Byzantine art while on a French Government scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

An excerpt from the biography says,” At a time, when modernist abstraction is preferred by artists both in India and the West, Anjolie Ela Menon’s works have been rigorously figurative, sensual and romantic.”

“I am overwhelmed to see so many old friends and my family in such large numbers. It is extremely gratifying,” said Ms. Menon at the launch that took place a day before her birthday.

Actress Sharmila Tagore and other noted personalities from the field of art, music and cinema were also present at the launch in the national capital which saw Ms. Menon’s four grandchildren reading out thoughts and writing from the book.