Tyeb Mehta Biography

(Indian painter)

Birthday: July 25, 1925 (Leo)

Born In: Kapadvanj, Gujarat, India

Not every day a man with as exceptional artistic calibre as Tyeb Mehta is born. A supremely talented Indian painter, Tyeb Mehta’s paintings epitomized the modern language of Indian art. He is revered to as a cultural hero who through his paintings brought out the evils of the contemporary society, most dominantly their suffering, anguish and dilemma. Born at a time when the country was experiencing nationalism at its peak, events and experiences from his personal life shaped much of his artistic career. The spirit of nationalism and the distress that came with partition were strongly portrayed on his canvas. He was later inspired by Francis Bacon’s expressionist paintings and minimalist art of New York. What made Tyeb Mehta the most noted artist of India was the fact the he was the first Indian contemporary artist whose works were sold for over a million dollars. Furthermore, he also led to what eventually became the great Indian art boom in the country.
Quick Facts

Indian Celebrities Born In July

Died At Age: 83


Spouse/Ex-: Sakina

children: Yusuf and Himani

Artists Indian Men

Died on: July 2, 2009

place of death: Mumbai, India

More Facts

awards: Padma Bhushan (2007)
Kalidas Samman (1988)
Prix Nationale at the International Festival of Painting in Cagnes-sur-Mer
France (1974)

Childhood & Early Life
Tyeb Mehta was born on September 26, 1925 in Kapadvanj, in the town of Kheda district in Gujarat in a Shi’ite Muslim family. During the partition of the country, his family chose to stay back in India, instead of moving over to Muslim-dominated Pakistan.
Raised in the Crawford Market area of Mumbai, young Tyeb was greatly influenced by the communal riots that the family was exposed to during partition. The incidents that he witnessed early in his life played a crucial role in his upbringing and later in his career.
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He started off his career by working as a film editor at the Famous Studios in Tardeo, Mumbai in a cinema laboratory, along with his family.
It was his profound interest in painting that took him to Sir J.J. School of Art in 1952, from where he did his diploma in painting.
Later, he became a part of the Bombay Progressive Artists Group, the same group which boasted of having painting greats such as FN Souza, SH Raza and MF Husain. Inspired by the western modernism that the group professed, he moulded his paintings on the same lines.
In 1959, he moved to London, where he spent the important years of his youth life. It was during this time that he was inspired by the works of Francis Bacon, an expressionist painter whom he became acquainted with in London. The latter’s work greatly inspired his future paintings..
In 1964, he moved to New York, where he was awarded a fellowship from the John D Rockefeller 3rd Fund in 1968. His painting style eventually evolved as he drew inspiration from minimalist art and his work came to be characterized by minimalism.
Returning to India, he started living in Mumbai. In 1970, he made a short three-minute film, ‘Koodal’ which in Tamil means ‘meeting place’. Essentially shot at the Bandra slaughter house, the film won him his first Filmfare Critics Award.
Meanwhile it was during this time that he came up with the popular painting of a trussed bull that displayed the light of helpless animals at the Mumbai slaughter house.
For a year, from 1984 to 1985, he served as the Artist-in-Residence at Santiniketan. The period brought about significant changes in his work and painting themes.
In 1991, he came up with the work, ‘Falling Figure’, which was largely impacted by the communal riots which he was exposed to as a child. He brought to canvas the violent death of a man in the street that he witnessed during the riots at the time of Partition of India. The painting showed the immense pain and brutality that the man suffered.
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During this time, he came up with several notable works of his lifetime including that of a trapped rickshaw puller which highlighted his cynicism with the world around and so on.
His painting of demon MahisHasura and Goddess Kali was the most celebrated work of the time and brought him immense fame and recognition. The way with which he dealt with the theme on canvas was greatly acknowledged. What’s more, the painting went on to gain 10 million Indian rupees at the Saffornart’s online auction in 2005.
Same year, he created history with his painting ‘Gesture’ which was sold for 31 million Indian rupees to Ranjit Malkani, at the Osian’s auction. The deal made him the highest paid Indian contemporary artist at an auction. Also, he became the first ever Indian artist to be paid so handsomely by an Indian buyer.
Awards & Achievements
In 1974, he was honoured the Prix Nationale at the International Festival of Painting in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France.
In 1988, the Government of Madhya Pradesh conferred him with the Kalidas Samman.
In 2007, the Government of India honored him with the country’s third highest civilian award, Padma Bhushan.
Personal Life & Legacy
He went into the wedlock with Sakina. The couple was blessed with two children, a son Yusuf and a daughter Himani.
He died on July 2, 2009 due to heart attack.
An extremely self-critical painter, Mehta had set such high standards for himself that for every painting that he sold at an auction, he destroyed seven to eight paintings, until he came up with the one, which according to him met his standards.

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