KH Ara acquired a somewhat avuncular air in the art scene of 1940s-50s Mumbai. That was rudely challenged when he got into nudes. And he got into nudes in a big way—the word ‘obsessive’ has been used to describe this sudden fascination. But Ara’s nudes came in for a lot of criticism.
Compared to those of contemporaries like Souza, these paintings were not sexual, shocking or even very explicit. But there’s a sensuousness to Ara’s work even if the subjects seem guarded in certain places, throwing sidelong looks over a shoulder or hurrying to cover up. Shy and respectful as the artist’s gaze seems, it also captures the spread of the hips, the arch of the back and the gentle swell of the breasts in an intimate, utterly infatuated way that has its own appeal. For him, the language of art preceded all other social and political motivations. His process and products were intuitive and spontaneous, not deliberate or ‘intellectual’. His was art for art’s sake, and in this way, he was a true modernist.
KH Ara was one of the founding members of ‘The Progressive Artists’ Group’,PAG. His artistic expressions were characterised by robust nudes and still lifes, marked by a life-affirming positivity and zeal. Born in 1913 in Andhra Pradesh, he was a self-taught artist who ran away from home to pursue his artistic career in Bombay. He participated in several solo shows in Mumbai as well. Ara has exhibited his works extensively all across Europe and Japan.
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TitleUntitled (Portrait of a nude woman)
ArtistKrishanji Howlaji Ara
MediumWatercolour on paper
DimensionsSight size: H: 75.3 x W: 53.7 cm
Genre: Modern & Contemporary Art