India is home to some of the fiercest and versatile artists. They have created some spectacular works of art that have not only taken the world by storm and received great accolades. But some popular Indian paintings have fetched staggering amounts at international auctions.

As the demand and value of Indian artists grow in the global art market, let us explore some of the most popular Indian paintings:

Birth - Francis Newton Souza

This oil on board is a popular masterpiece by Francis Newton Souza in 1955.

Sold for a sum north of $4 million at a Christie's auction in New York in 2015, it was a record-setter then for expensive Indian paintings.

Birth by Francis Newton Souza - most expensive Indian paintings

The paintings of the Goa-born artist’s are known for emphasizing the dark and depressive side of society owing to his upbringing in the Portuguese Catholic colony. Female nudes, religion and city life are recurrent themes in his artworks.

In fact, Birth is considered one of the most important paintings of the Souza’s artistic career and was included in his first solo show at Gallery One in London.

The painting motif represents the pain a pregnant woman experiences while giving birth to a child. It depicts a reclining nude pregnant woman with hairpins laying down nude with a non-fictional man in a priest’s tunic alongside.

The townscape visible through the open window of the room is a portrayal of the area of London with corniced buildings and tall towers where Souza lived.

Untitled- Vasudeo S Gaitonde

Vasudeo Gaitonde is hailed as one of India's foremost abstract painters, who has created many splendid oil paintings.

Though a progressive Indian painter and noted as a ‘genius’ by the likes of M F Hussain, his image in the media was that of a recluse who kept to himself.

Untitled by Vasudeo S Gaitonde - most expensive Indian paintings

“Everything starts with silence. The silence of the brush. The silence of the canvas. The silence of the painting knife.” ―V.S. Gaitonde

Over a decade after his death in 2001, his untitled oil on canvas painting was sold for a whopping $4 million at Christie’s India auction, setting a record for one of the highest selling  Indian paintings in modern and contemporary art.

This untitled minimalist landscape was one of Gaitonde's earliest works, done soon after he graduated from the prestigious J J School of art in 1979

The green oil painting is a mixture of euphoric colors, strokes, and textures, and clearly represents the artist's precise and deliberate technique.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

Saurashtra- Syed Haider Raza

It was painted by Syed Haider Raza in 1983 and is one of his pivotal artistic works in his professional life.

This ‘acrylic on canvas’ painting was sold for nearly $3.5 million at an auction in London in 2010.

Raza worked mainly in Ecole de Paris and Abstract Expressionism. But, later he began incorporating elements of his Indian heritage and traditional legacy into his paintings.

This popular Indian painting is a perfect fusion of various motifs that he embarked upon during the course of his long artistic career.

Saurashtra by Syed Haider Raza - most expensive Indian paintings

It clearly depicts the beauty of the Gujarati coastal landscape and natural environment, wherein he uses specific shapes and bold colors to symbolize different facets of nature’s creation and spiritualism altogether in one canvas.

Durga Mahishasura Mardini - Tyeb Mehta

Commissioned by India’s finest contemporary artist Tyeb Mehta in 1993, this painting was sold for a whopping amount of around $2.8 million in November 2018 at Boundless India, Sotheby’s inaugural auction.

This popular Indian painting is an artistical remarkable representation of Goddess Durga with demon Mahishasura. 

Durga Mahishasura Mardini  by Tyeb Mehta - most expensive indian paintings

Inspired by ancient mythology and Hindu literature, Mehta beautifully

fuses ancient imagery with the simplicity of form, vivid color, and line, resulting in dynamic and lively modern artwork.

Self-portrait by Amrita Sher Gil

This oil on canvas self-portrait painted by the Hungarian-Indian artist, Amrita Sher Gil during her teenage years in 1933.

Self portrait by Amrita Sher Gil - most expensive Indian paintings.

This painting by Gil, a pioneer in modern Indian art made an impressive sale at a Sotheby' auction in 2015. Sold for around $2.9 million, it set new records and is one of the most expensive Indian paintings.

Gil’s self-portraits are painted with an intensity that is almost hypnotic wherein the viewer is drawn to connect with the psyche of the artist discovering the sea of melancholy.

Wrap Up

While we are overwhelmed with works of art day-in and day-out, there are a few magnificent pieces with artistic brilliance that have transcended time and culture to carve their rightful and deserving place in art history.

These captivating pieces of art hold within themselves a powerful and intriguing story wherein every brushstroke and each drop of color used on the canvas narrates the tale in its own unique style.

These popular Indian paintings have grabbed eyeballs all over the world for ages and will never be forgotten.