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Anjolie Ela Menon, the Indian contemporary artist who has helmed artistic reinvention for decades

July 17, On This Day


There is not much that has not already been said in the media realm about Anjolie Ela Menon, one of India’s leading and award-winning contemporary artists, alongside being a most distinguished icon for successful women in the field of arts.

Born on July 17, 1940, she is of mixed Bengali and American parentage. Menon was a prodigy of sorts as by the age of 15, when she left school, she had already sold a few paintings. In fact, her first painting at the age of 14 was bought by Dr Zakir Husain, then vice president of India! Menon held an acclaimed solo exhibition at the tender age of 18, and then went on to attain a scholarship at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, touring Europe widely and also America, and attaining more academic feathers in her cap, alongside gaining  precious socio-cultural exposure.

Menon is best recognized for her religious-themed works, portraits, and nudes that incorporated a vibrant colour palette rendered in a variety of styles ranging from cubism to techniques that recalled the artists of the European Renaissance. In 1997 she, for the first time displayed non-figurative work, including Buddhist abstracts.

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She has professed to being drawn to the works of Modigliani, and Indian painters, M F Husain and Amrita Shergil.

The well-known muralist — her preferred medium being oil on masonite, although she has also worked in other media, including Murano glass, computer graphics and water colour — has also won the Padma Shri in 2000. Towards the turn of the century, Menon also ventured into new territories by creating glass sculptures, ceramics and upcycled furniture.

Menon has consistently re-envisioned her oeuvre with changing mores. Her artwork does not run shy of attracting controversy, and is often an unabashed celebration of femininity. It is intriguing and esoteric, but also empathetic and disruptive, now spanning over nearly seven decades.

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