Portrait of an artist

THE GIRL IN THE BERET: Amrita Sher-Gil’s untitled self-potrait  

Have you ever drawn a picture of yourself? Amrita Sher-Gil, one of India’s great artists, painted many self-portraits at different ages and in different moods. They interest us because we get an idea of what the artist thought and felt about herself at the time she was painting.

Amrita had an unusual life for a young Indian girl. Her father was an Indian Sikh, her mother was a Hungarian opera singer. The family spent time in both Europe and India.

The self-portrait you see in the picture has no title. It was painted in France, in 1931, when the artist was 18 years old. Amrita was in Paris for the first time to study at the famous French art school, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In the painting, she is wearing a French-style hat called a beret and is looking away from us. This painting is the only one of Amrita Sher-Gil’s 19 known self-portraits done in profile.


The girl in the picture has a serious expression. Even though Amrita was young when she painted this picture, and it was an exciting time for her enjoying the cafés of Paris with her artist friends, we know from her diary and letters that she felt lonely. At this time, it is believed that Amrita’s mother wanted her to marry a rich Zamindar’s son but Amrita was in love with her cousin, Victor Egan. Her expression in the painting looks troubled. In front of her figure rests an empty golden bowl. Some people think the bowl is another sign of the loneliness felt by the artist.

Amrita Sher-Gil died at the young age of 28 years. The Indian Government has declared her 172 paintings a national treasure and does not allow them to be taken outside the country. This painting was discovered in France and sold in the U.K., fetching £1.7 million. It is one of only eight paintings by the artist that exist outside India.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 11:23:23 PM |

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