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Lifetime in art

One of India’s great modern artists is Anjolie Ela Menon. She has painted for almost 60 years of her life. Over the years the style and subjects of her paintings has changed making it difficult to define her art as one particular type. Yet art lovers around the world agree about the beauty of her paintings.

Early start

Born in 1940, Anjolie’s mother was American and her father was Bengali. Her mother died when she was young. Her American grandmother took care of her until she went to boarding school in Lawrence School, Lovedale, Tamil Nadu. Her art teacher in school inspired young Anjolie and encouraged her talent. By the time she left school, she had painted about 40 canvases and even sold some of them.

After boarding school, she enrolled in the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai, though she did not enjoy it and dropped out midway. In Mumbai, for the first time, she saw the paintings of M.F. Husain and Mohan Samant and was struck by their styles. At a young age, she admired the paintings of Amrita Shergil, and the Italian artist Amadeo Modigliani. All of these influences affected the way she painted. She had her first exhibition when she was just a teenager in college.

The French Government gave her a scholarship to study in the famous Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. She travelled through France and Italy, studying French cathedrals and the work of Italian painters like Botticelli. On her way back to India, she spent time in Greece, Turkey, Iran and other West Asian countries. She absorbed the work of artists in each country. When she returned to India she got married and had children. At that time her paintings reflected her feelings about motherhood.

Menon has tried different art mediums but she likes oil paints on surfaces like Masonite, a hardened wood board, best. She prefers to paint directly instead of drawing a picture first. She has created art for public spaces like the Mumbai international airport. She loves beautiful colours. Her paintings often create a sad or thoughtful mood.

People, animal and things from her life appear in her paintings. She liked the shape of the windows she bought for her new house and painted windows looking into mystery spaces. In Bombay, she painted in the balcony of her home, where a crow would often visit. She painted the crow into several of her works. Now that she has grandchildren, she paints their faces. She also paints the faces of children in her basti or neighbourhood of Nizamuddin, Delhi where her studio is located.

Menon now lives and works in Delhi. Recently she created glass sculptures. The glass comes from Murano, which is an Italian island famous for its fancy glassware.

Her paintings and murals have been exhibited in India, France, the UK, the US, Japan, Russia, Brazil and other parts of the world. Anjolie Ela Menon was awarded the Padma Shri in 2000.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 10:23:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/Lifetime-in-art/article17375902.ece

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