Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 April 2008

B. Prabha

(1933 - 2001, Indian)

oil on canvas on board

70.0 x 120.0 cm

signed upper left: b.prabha

$45,000 - 65,000
Sold for $39,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 4 - 16 April 2008, Melbourne

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner c1973
Private collection, Sydney

Catalogue text

'I can't understand how some painters can say that they work in isolation. As artists, we must respond to things around us, to the misery and also to the joys of life that continue despite all the hardships.'1

One of the most important Indian artists of the twentieth century, Prabha remains internationally acclaimed and admired for her highly evocative paintings such as the present which poignantly highlight the trials, travails and strengths of the Mumbai fisherwomen. Immediately recognisable with their gracious, elongated limbs, distinctive hairstyles and vibrant saris, her protagonists encapsulate the youthful beauty and rustic innocence of her female compatriots, while always alluding to the latent sorrow or tragedy of their lives; as the artist lamented in an interview with Young buzz India, 'I have yet to see one happy woman.'2 Thus, although broader social issues of famine, drought and homelessness may be discerned in her work, they are inevitably explored within the context of the woman's plight; men are featured rarely, and if depicted, occupy only a secondary presence.

Betraying strong affinities with the art of Paul Klee, Prabha's art is also indebted to legendary Indian artist Amrita Shergil and, more generally, to the French Impressionists-  'I derive my style from them and my content and colours from India.' Undoubtedly however, the most powerful influence upon her development as a painter - and particularly her evolution from modern abstraction to figuration - washer husband and sculptor B.Vithal: '...he was my biggest inspiration, was someone who forced me to change my perspective. He used to tell me that modern abstract paintings are not something that works in the Indian context. The idea was to develop a style that had its roots in Indian art...'3

The recipient of several prestigious awards, during her long and successful career Prabha held over fifty solo exhibitions in both India and abroad, and today, is represented in numerous private and public collections worldwide including the National Gallery of Art, New Delhi; the National Gallery of Art, Mumbai; and the Ewing Krainin Gallery, Waikiki.

1. Prabha cited in 'Homage to B. Prabha' at
2. ibid.
3. ibid.