An Artist of Her Time: Y. G. Srimati and the Indian Style at The Met 5th Avenue, December 15, 2016 – June 18, 2017
“This is the first retrospective exhibition devoted to the Indian artist Y. G. Srimati (1926–2007), who was born in Mysore, southern India, and died in New York. Raised in a cultured Tamil Brahmin family in Chennai, as a teenager in the 1940s Srimati was swept up in the nationalist movement for an independent India. Already an accomplished artist and classically trained musician, Srimati was invited in 1946 to sing devotional songs (bhajans) at a number of independence rallies addressed by Mahatma Gandhi in Chennai. She was deeply moved by the time she spent with Gandhi. By August 1947 India had secured full independence; five months later, on January 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi by a Hindu fundamentalist. These momentous events, and her personal encounter with Gandhi, would shape much of the orientation and agenda of Srimati the painter.
Srimati’s painting displays a consistent commitment to her vision of an Indian style. She explored themes from Indian religious epic literature and scenes of rural culture, asserting traditional subject matter as part of a conscious expression of nationalist sentiments; her choice was personal and idiosyncratic. These are fresh and original interpretations, clearly informed by the marriage of a passion for the sculptural qualities of Indian dance and a profound understanding of the spiritual dynamics of her chosen subjects. Through her highly controlled and softly modulated use of watercolor washes, Srimati built on the poetic and lyrical styles developed a generation earlier in India by Abanindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose.
Drawn from The Met’s permanent holdings and private collections, this exhibition focuses principally on the first two decades of the artist’s career, the 1940s and 1950s, when her repertoire was defined and her style matured. It also features key works from the later periods, including the 1980s when she resided in New York.” — Introductory Wall Text
Thanjavur tambura (male), South India, early 19th century. Jackwood, rosewood, metal, ivory. 15 in. x 10 in. x 57 ½ in. (W. 38.1 x D 25.4 x L. 146.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Frederick M. Lehman Bequest, 2008. Photo: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Unknown photographer. Y.G. Srimati accompanying Mahatma Gandhi at an independence rally, Chennai, 1946. Gelatin silver print, 5 ½ x 3 1/3. Lent by Michael Pellettieri
Unknown photographer. Y.G. Srimati in her studio, Sait Colony, Egmore, Chennai, circa 1950. Photomural. Lent by Michael Pellettieri