Back to all artists
Next Previous

Akbar Padamsee

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1928, Mumbai
Lives and works in Mumbai

Akbar Padamsee is one of the pioneering figures who forged "modernist art" in post- independence India and is known for his formalist exploration of the nudes, the heads and "Metascapes". Though primarily a painter, he also engages with sculpting, printmaking, film making and photography.



Diploma in Fine Arts, Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai



VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Videos      Awards      Selected images      View all




Gallery Show Solo


Countries exhibited in


Museum Show Solo


International / national residencies


Years in Practice




Special Projects




Museum/public collections


Museum Show Group






Gallery Show Group


Art Fairs


Pioneer to a new form of modernity in post-independence Indian art

Although never formally a part of the Bombay Progressives, Akbar Padamsee was influential in shaping the group’s ideology and carrying it to the pinnacles of excellence. It was at J.J. School of Art that he met Raza, Tyeb Mehta, Gaitonde and Souza, the members of the Progressive Artists Group . The Progressives played a prime role in forging "modernism" in post-independence Indian art and sought to break away from the revivalist nationalism advanced by the Bengal School of Art and expanding their circuit of reference to international artist and art movements. In Padamsee’s work, modernity can be traced to the sense of disengagement and alienation that the human figures seem to underscore with an emphasis on structure rooted in a certain Internationalism.

Akbar Padamsee, Untitled, 2006, watercolour on paper, 15 x 11”.

His oeuvre spans over six decades focussing primarily on nudes, heads and landscapes

Using a variety of mediums like oil paintings, watercolours, sculpture, photography and printmaking, Padamsee’s work explores genres like nudes, heads and metascapes, mirroring much of post- independence India’s struggle with body, figure and abstraction. For the artist, formalist and conceptual concerns often override his concern for the subject. His nudes are often given a treatment similar to a landscape while his heads rarely make an attempt at portraiture.

Although known as a painter, Padamsee has experimented with a variety of mediums like filmmaking, photography, computer graphics and printmaking. Initially using nude photography to assist in his drawing, it was at a much later stage that he discovered photography as a tool of study in the properties of light and of form.

Akbar Padamsee, Untitled (Cityscape), 1962, oil on canvas, 16 1/4 x 10 1/2”.

Akbar Padamsee, Nude Study 8, 2005, photograph, 31 x 25“.

Around the 1970's, Padamsee began what he called the 'Metascape'

For Padamsee, art is not divorced from philosophical discursiveness. Kalidas’s  Abhigyanam Shakuntalam introduced the artist to two controllers of time—the sun and the moon. This idea swayed him so much that he decided to translate the verse pictorially across the canvas as metascapes or metaphorical landscapes. According to Nancy Adajania, the metascape which closely resembles the schematic precision of a cosmogram, pitches various dualities into opposition, including those of the sun and the moon, night and day, language and experience .

Akbar Padamsee, Metascape,1977, oil on canvas. 60 x 60”.

The structure of the painting and thought is central for his image making

Denouncing the subject’s superiority over form, Padamsee engaged himself in a lifelong quest of achieving the underlying geometry of form and perfecting the science of colours. Central to his every work, is an impassioned experimentation with form and colour . His distinctive use of the palette knife, emphasis on the form, volume, colour texture and lines makes him a virtuoso imagist. Padamsee's admiration of Piero della Francesca's geometric construction is evident in his compositions while the brushstrokes similar to Chinese writings is discernible in his watercolour nudes.

In Padamsee’s magnum opus from his grey period—Juhu Beach, 1960, the nudes are given the same treatment as the landscape. In fact, for Padamsee, the figure is rarely treated as an individual. The only exception being his Gandhi series executed in 1997 where he executed portraits of known people.

Akbar Padamsee, Untitled, 2006, watercolour on paper, 23.22 x 30”.

Significant influence of the Parisian school of art in his works

It was in 1952 that Akbar Padamsee arrived in Paris and joined the young brigade of Indian artists like Raza, Souza and Ram Kumar in sojourn at Paris. It was in Paris that Padamsee acquainted himself with works of Picasso and Braque, Matisse and Modigliani and was enthralled by the African masks at the Musee de l’homme and met the renowned sculptor Giacometi. Padamsee’s work though reflects a certain Indian-ness, owes a debt to Cezanne as well to the cubists .

Akbar Padamsee, Nature Morte a la Carafee, 1956, oil on panel, 15 1/2 x 10 1/2”.