Acclaimed artist, architect, sculptor and writer Satish Gujral passed away yesterday, Thursday 26 March 2020, at the age of 94. A Padma Vibhushan awardee, Gujral’s work spanned the medium: he was a muralist, a sculptor, a painter, an architect, a designer, and a poetry lover. He was one of the few who consistently dominated the art scene in India for entire post-independent era.
Born on 25 December 1925, in Jhelum in modern-day Pakistan, Satish Gujaral's artworks were heavily inspired by the turbulence he experienced during early years in his life, including the illness that impaired his hearing as a child and the partition of the subcontinent. The impact the partition had on him was so strong that it went to form the basis of his art in the initial stages of his career.
Satish Gujral joined the Mayo School of Arts in Lahore in the year 1939 in order to study applied arts. After graduating from the Mayo School of Arts, he moved to Bombay in 1944 and took admission at the Sir JJ School of Art. In 1947, a recurring sickness forced Gujral to drop out of JJ School of Art and eventually completed his education in the year 1949. In the 1950s, he was granted a scholarship from the Mexican embassy. He apprenticed with David Siqueiros and Diego Rivera and inspired by them, he turned to making murals in ceramic and terracotta.
In the initial stages of his career, Gujral’s work was heavily influenced by the suffering of people who lost their homes and families because of the partition of the country. Since he had witnessed the cruel act first-hand, he couldn’t help but to incorporate his personal experience in his creations. In the late 1980s, Gujral expanded the scope of his paintings and sculptures both in terms of materials as well as content. He started making large murals, mostly in mosaic and ceramic tiles. His sculptures, made out of burnt wood, come across as visceral exposure of human and other forms.
Satish Gujral’s Renowned Works
His renowned works include the alphabet murals at the facade of the Delhi High Court and paintings such as Days of Glory and Mourning en mass, which are considered as expressions of anguish. As an architect, Gujral designed the Embassy of Belgium in New Delhi in 1984, UNESCO Building in Delhi, CMC Research Center in Hyderabad, Goa University and even the summer palace for the Saudi Royal family in Riyadh.
Awards and Recognition
Satish Gujral received numerous awards in recognition of his vital contribution to the field of art and architecture, including the National Award for Painting as well as National Award for Sculpture. He was honoured by the Punjab Government of Punjab for his impeccable contribution towards art and architecture. The Belgian Government honoured him with the ‘Order of the Crown’ for his contribution towards architecture.
In the year 1999, the Government of India honoured Satish Gujral with Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second highest civilian award.
May His Soul Rest in Peace.