Winter: Amrita Sher-Gil Makes Even Desolation Look Beautiful

In this 1939 oil-on-canvas, Amrita Sher-Gil covers Hungarian village Zebegény in snow

Shreevatsa Nevatia Published Dec 20, 2020 00:00:00 IST
Winter: Amrita Sher-Gil Makes Even Desolation Look Beautiful Winter by Amrita Sher-Gil. Oil on canvas, 1939, 101.2 cm x 115 cm (Image via Google Arts and Culture)

Audiences, one thinks, know Amrita Sher-Gil’s self-portraits more than her biography. Born to a Sikh aristocrat and a Hungarian mother in 1913 Budapest, Sher-Gil grew up listening to Hungarian folk tales. Her mother tongue was Magyar, and between 1929 and 1934, she spent several summers in Zebegény.

In Winter, Sher-Gil covers this Hungarian village in snow. The panorama she paints is white and stark, her palette dull. Barring a crow in the foreground, everything else is lifeless, bleak. Though Sher-Gil is said to have been inspired by the work of Simon Hollósy, an artist who sought to capture the simplicity of rural life, she clearly interprets more than imitates. Staring at Winter, you feel she has pinned on her canvas a light that changes. There are no human figures in this work, but as often happens with all that Sher-Gil paints, this stunning work renders even desolation beautiful.

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