Hamari Amrita

Amrita Sher-Gil: a self-portrait in letters and writings is a phenomenal two-volume book from Tulika, New Delhi. Edited and annotated by Vivan Sundaram, the artist's artist nephew, the book was released on 16 February at the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.

This self-portrait of the iconic Indian painter Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941) represents more than a life. For this book in two volumes, Amrita’s extant letters and writings are translated and reproduced from the originals, and in their entirety.

The book draws on the primary text of these letters to open up a visual narrative around the artist’s oeuvre, complemented by a parallel text of notes that not only annotate but also entangle the personal in the web of contemporaneity. The editorial intervention expands the setting to include the artist’s voice, photographs from the Sher-Gil family album, reviews from contemporary art critics, and excerpts from autobiographies and testimonies that touched Amrita’s life.

There are full-colour reproductions of 147 paintings by the artist, representing the largest such collection in print, as well as of her early sketches and watercolours. This archival effort makes for a definitive volume on the life, art and writings of Amrita Sher-Gil.

The book has a Foreword by Salman Rushdie; a Prologue and an Epilogue by Vivan Sundaram; a complete list of Amrita Sher-Gil’s 171 known oil paintings with thumbnail sketches and detailed captions; and a select bibliography of writings by and on Amrita Sher-Gil.

Vivan Sundaram, born in Shimla in 1943, studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University of Baroda, Vadodara, and the Slade School of Fine Art, London in the 1960s. He returned to India in 1970 and continued painting. Since 1990 he has turned to making artworks as sculpture, installation, photography and video. These works have been exhibited nationally and internationally. He has also organized artists’ workshops, curated exhibitions and done public art projects. A member of the Sher-Gil family, Vivan Sundaram has been engaged with the Sher-Gil project for over thirty years — as artist, curator, editor, archivist. The Sher-Gil Family, a painting made in 1983-84, and The Sher-Gil Archive, an installation made in 1995, are precursors to his Re-take of ‘Amrita’, a series of digital photomontages made in 2001.

New in our Art section, the book is published as a boxed set of 2 volumes in hardcover and runs to 900 pages. Lavishly produced, the book has approximately 1000 visuals, and is priced at Rs 5750. ISBN: 9788189487591