Artist biography

Indian painter. His first exhibited works presented deities cut from popular prints, glued on to mirrors, supplemented by graffiti and gestural marks. He achieved international recognition in 1967 and was proclaimed as India's first Pop artist. Over the next few years he plundered other Indian genres miniatures, Company paintings, temple maps.

Several of the pictures of the early 1970s resemble shop signs for tailors, barbers, watch repairers, with vividly and crisply realised props. Implicit in paintings is a humorous acceptance and celebration of a culture previously disregarded, a hybrid, half-westernised culture of lower-middle class urban Indians, for whom Khakhar could act as spokesman.

In You Can't Please All (1981; London, Knoedler's) a life-size naked figure, a self-portrait, watches from a balcony, as father, son and donkey enact an ancient fable, winding through the townscape in continuous narration. The picture was conceived as a declaration; henceforth the artist spoke as a homosexual (another unregarded constituency in Indian culture).

Khakhar's sexual explicitness has gone hand in hand with a deepening sense of the religious, and a convincing monumentality, often achieved through powerfully flattened colour. In Yayati (1987; priv. col.) the myth of the old king who asks his son to give him his youth is transformed into an extraordinary sexual statement. Khakhar's unwavering commitment to subject-matter in preference to stylistic concerns or avant-garde strategies has been important to younger artists. He is the central figure of the Baroda School, the loose grouping of figurative painters that includes Gulam Sheikh and Sudhir Patwardhan.

T. Hyman: ‘Indian Views', London Mag., n.s., xix/4 (1979), pp. 46–60
G. Kapur: ‘The View from the Teashop', Contemporary Indian Artists (New Delhi, 1979), pp. 149–77
Six Indian Painters (exh. cat. by G. Kapur, London, Tate, 1982)
M. Desai: A Man Labelled Bhupen Khakhar Branded as Painter (Baroda, 1983) [by a business associate of Khakhar; good colour pls]
Bhupen Khakhar (exh. cat., intro. A. Jussawala, interview with U. Beier; Paris, Pompidou, 1986)

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