Tyeb Mehta


Tyeb Mehta or Tayyabb Mehta (25 July 1925 – 2 July 2009) was an acclaimed Indian painter. His illustrious painting, the triptych Celebration, sold for a whopping sum of Rs.1.5 crore ($317,500) in the year 2002 at Christie’s auction. This had set a record for Indian paintings on the international podium. His works have thus elicited an art boom in India.

Mehta was born on the 26th of September in the year 1925 at Kapadvanj. This is till date a small town of Kheda district in Gujarat, India. Thereafter, he spent his childhood in the Crawford Market neighborhood of Mumbai. It was then populated by Dawoodi Bohras.

At the age of 22, Mehta witnessed the agonies of partition riots of 1947 in Mumbai. At that time he was putting up in Lehri House on Mohammed Ali Road; he witnessed a wrathful mob stoning a man to death around this time. This cruel sight left an unfathomable scar in his memory and surfaced time and again in some of his depictions. Besides, it also had a lifelong influence on his work. Therefore most of his masterworks displayed a blatant and disconcerting expose of his foci.

Education & Work

He received his diploma from Sir J.J. School of Art in the year 1952. In 1968, he visited U. S.A. on a Rockefeller Fellowship. He was also a resident artist at Santiniketan between  1984-85.

Tyeb was a part of the esteemed Bombay Progressive Artists' Group. This group has harboured artists of outstanding stature namely F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain and S.H. Raza.

Post-colonial artist John Wilkins had also broken free from the nationalist Bengal school and had joined this Modernism style along with Mehta.

His celebrated work, the 'Diagonal Series', the Santiniketan triptych series, beautiful Kali and the eminent Mahishasura in 1996 are examples of stupendous art display amongst painting enthusiasts.

Tyeb was highly inspired by the works of artist Francis Bacon; especially the style of depicting forms through a macabre distortion moved him immensely. This mirrored in the face and bodily structures of his masterpieces. In the early 50’s his works represented a pictorial language of European art which continued through the 60s as well. Gradually, he shifted towards 'Indian' leitmotifs and topics through 70s and 80s.

Mehta then began to make rickshaw-wallahs and trussed bulls the subject of his painting. Thereafter, he began to concentrate on the undying complexities of layered images; he investigated this in his paintings on Hindu mythology. Over the 90s, Hindu Goddesses became his subject, the myths and mystics of these supernatural beings namely Durga, Kali and Mahishasura Mardini, and all other incarnations of such goddess grew into his primary focus.

For a major part of his life, Mehta stayed and worked in Mumbai. He also spent short spells at London, New York, and Santiniketan. All these stays impacted his outlook and the enriching experiences surfaced in his work.

Awards and Accolades

He received several awards during his career including the Padma Bhushan by Govt. of India in 2007.

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