Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913, but moved to India as a young child and trained in Italy.  Sher-Gil’s life was short, but very prolific, as she left a huge body of work.  Drawn to the poor and the oppressed of India, her work expresses sympathy for their condition.  Sher-Gil was also attracted to the philosophy of Ghandi and the Indian National Congress.  Sher-Gil’s art has influenced generations of Indian artists from Sayed Haider Raza to Arpita Singh and her depiction of the plight of women has made her art a beacon for women both in India and abroad. Her paintings are today considered by the Indian government to be National Art Treasures.

Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico in 1907.  Her life was one of extremes, and she depicted every facet of it through her painting.  She documented her personal journey of love, pain and mental turmoil, yet this was not where Kahlo’s work ended.  A strong political consciousness permeated her work, which often raises questions about Mexican society and the construction of identity within it.

Sharing parallels in life and work

Frida learned how to paint the human structure from her photographer father, while Amrita filled her sketchbooks with portraits of their servants.  Frida’s father Guillermo Kahlo Kaufmann was also a photographer, just like Amrita’s father Umrao Singh.  Both artists as young girls embraced self-portraiture as a distinct feature of their work.

Frida’s many self-portraits often feature wounds.  They seem to represent her tumultuous entry to painting after a near fatal accident in 1925.  Recuperation took over a year, during which time Kahlo gave up her science education and began painting from her hospital bed.

Amrita’s turmoil is between her two worlds: light and dark, East and West, Europe and India, attraction and resistance: “I am personally trying to be … an interpreter of the life of the people, particularly the life of the poor and sad.”

Kahlo had relationships with both men and women and has become an icon for the LGBT movement.  Amrita was openly bisexual and had several affairs, including one with French painter Marie-Louise Chassany.