Most artists have some formative experiences that influence their style and thematic concerns. For B Prabha it was the plaintive expression on the faces of women all around her, a silent cry against the grind of daily life.
B Prabha (1933 -2001) was born in a small village near Nagpur in Maharashtra. At a young age, she made up her mind to pursue art and arrived in Mumbai with a few rupees and some family jewelry, which she imminently sold. She and her husband, also a sculptor, often relied on friends for shelter and storing their art.
Prabha studied at the Sir JJ School of Art and received a scholarship to specialise in mural painting. Her career took off when Homi J Bhabha, the renowned Indian scientist, bought three of her paintings while she was still a student.
The driving force behind her art was the oppression of women in India, particularly that of rural and working-class women. In an interview, she once remarked, “I have yet to see a happy woman”.
Indeed, a significant portion of her work was dedicated to portraying the inner lives, the web of emotions, and the strength of women. Through her characteristic style, she not only gave voice and representation to these women, but also lent them grace and dignity which their circumstances had stripped them of.
In a way, her art externalised her own struggle and perseverance. At a time when few women considered art as a formal profession, Prabha defied her humble beginnings to achieve fame and success.
Images from Tutt Art