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K.H. Ara View Artworks of K.H. Ara Back to Artist

Viewed as the first contemporary Indian painter to meticulously use the female nude as a subject, K.H. Ara through his works, transformed an act of straight reportage on day to day life into a potentially sensuous communication.

K.H Ara was born in 1913 near Andhra Pardesh.A self taught artist, he struggled with poverty while growing up. At the tender age of 7, he moved to Mumbai and made living cleaning cars. He was imprisoned for participating in Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha Movement. Despite the unfavourable circumstances, Ara continued with painting in his spare time.

Even though he began his career doing landscapes and paintings on socio-historical themes, he soon moved to still life and nudes. In his works depicting female nudes, his approach was balanced. He neither expected to shock the viewer through display of a raw eroticism, nor did he want to revisit folk art. Through his nudes, he depicted Indian women across age groups and from different strata of society in a dignified manner. When one looks at his works, the subject of the nude is never an object of titillation; the subject has a strong sense of agency which Ara brings out through his works.

He was one of the founder members of the Progressive Artists’ Group. K.H. Ara was not deliberately political through his works. He was not making a political statement through those. For him, as a modernist, the form and language of art preceded all other social and political motivations. His art was intuitive, imaginative, spontaneous and improvised with an intent of creating a unique vocabulary. He wasn’t creating an intellectual statement through his works either but rather embarking on a process of self exploration through the form and language of art.

Ara won several awards in his lifetime, beginning with the annual prizes of the Bombay Art Society, the Governor’s Prize, and an award from UNESCO, all before Independence. He was founder and secretary of the Artists’ Aid Centre and trustee of the Jehangir Art Gallery, both in Bombay, and was both fellow and general council member of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.


  Certificate in Foundation Course, Ketkar Institute of Art, Mumbai

Selected Posthumous Exhibitions

  2013 'The Naked and the Nude: The Body in Indian Modern Art', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi   2012 'Contemporary: A Selection of Modern and Contemporary Art', prsented by Sakshi Gallery at The Park, Chennai

 2011 'Ethos V: Indian Art Through the Lens of History (1900 to 1980), Indigo Blue Art, Singapore

  2011 'Watermark II', Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai

  2011 ‘Manifestations V', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

  2011 'Time Unfolded', Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi

  2011 'Continuum', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

  2010 'From Miniature to Modern: Traditions in Transition', Rob Dean Art, London in association with Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai

  2010 'The Progressives & Associates', Grosvenor Gallery, London

  2010 ‘Manifestations IV', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

  2009 'Bharat Ratna! Jewels of Modern Indian Art', Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

  2007 'Still Life: Adaptation in 20th century Indian Art', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

  2004 ‘Manifestations III : Indian Art in the 20th Century’, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

  2003 ‘Manifestations II : Indian Art in the 20th Century’, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

  2001 'Changing Images: An Exhibition of 20th Century Indian Art', Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi

  1997 ‘Indian Contemporary Art Post Independence’, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi

  1988 'A Tribute to Krishnaji Howlaji Ara', Prithivi Theatre Gallery, Mumbai

Selected Solo Exhibitions


  1978 Artists’ Centre, Mumbai

  1973 Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai   1966 Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai

  1964 'Jasnne–e-Ara', Prince of Wales Museum, Key Gallery, Mumbai

  1963 'Poem on Canvas', Taj Gallery and Byculla.

  1963 ‘Black Nude Series’, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai

  1963 Held an Exhibition of his paintings, Exclusively in Aid of the National Defense Fund, Roop Gallery.

  1962 'Nude Show', Taj Gallery, Mumbai

  1961 One man show at Hyderabad.

  1954,60 Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai

  1950 'Still Life', Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai

  1948 Two shows held in the provincial towns of Surat and Rander.

  1947 Exhibition in Matunga, a Mumbai Suburb.

  1944 Chetna Restaurant, organized by Kekoo Gandhi, Mumbai

  1942 Bombay Art Society Salon in Rampart Row (now Artists’ Centre), Mumbai

Selected Group Exhibitions


  1963 'Paintings Exhibition in aid of the National Defence Fund', Shridharni Gallery, New Delhi

  1950 Calcutta Group-Progressive Artists Group, Joint Exhibition, Kolkata

  1949-55 'Progressive Artist's Group', Prithvi Gallery, Mumbai; Shridharni Gallery, New Delhi; Baroda.

  1948 Inaugural Exhibition Progressive Artist's Group, at Bombay Art Society, Mumbai


Honours and Awards


  1984 Fellow from Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi

  1961 Sponsored by Lalit Kala Akademi, visited France as Guest of French Government and Visited Bulgaria as an Exchange Artist on Invitation of the Bulgarian Artists Association

  1952 Gold Medal, Bombay Art Society, Mumbai

  1947 Founder Member, Progressive Artists Group, Mumbai

  1944 Governor's Prize and Anuual Prize, Bombay Art Society’s Annual Exhibition, Mumbai

  1942,39,38 Simla Art Society, Shimla

  1941 Bombay Art Society’s Annual Exhibition, Mumbai

  1939 Bombay Art Society, Mumbai

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