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Born in 1929 at Varanasi, India, she lives in New Delhi. In meeting the artist it is fascinating to find a rare balance of thought amid a life of hardships and challenges. The external environment of Karuna’s childhood was controlled by the limitations of a colonized society yet her character is built on the intellectual challenges of Gandhiji’s thoughts and a family environment that stood for education of women.* Karuna’s teen years were shattered by the forced displacement of the family from their home in Lahore, Punjab when India was partitioned in 1947. She teaches at Mirambika School, New Delhi.
On September 11, 2001 she with her family were evacuated by brave Americans across the Hudson river to safety. Her sorrow she expressed in her many paintings of New York made in the months thereafter.
In 1947 she was in college at Kanya Mahavidhyalaya, Jalandhar, a young women having vowed to free India from colonial and monarchial rule. As early as her pre-teen years, her talent reflected in her drawings and paintings. In 1952 she formally trained at Maharaja College in painting under guru Shri. Ram Gopal Vijayvarghiya, one of India's premier artists and defining catalyst of the contemporary modern art movement. From 1958 to 1961 she trained as Special Student under her guru Shri. H.L. Merh at Government Arts College, Lucknow, India, who was a star disciple of Shri. Asit K. Haldar, the first principal of Shantiniketan and a founding force that led the intellectual movement in modern Indian art. In 1962 she joined Shri. K. S. Kulkarni's studio at Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi and of Nand Katyal in 1963. In 1973 she completed a five years training course by the British Institute of Engineering and Technology, Mumbai, in commercial art specialization.
Karuna’s world took her to live and travel in numerous regions of India, bringing in each experience the beauty of our earth and people to her. The artist in Karuna absorbed the constant in a world of turmoil. The green fields of the Punjab, the colors of the Rajasthan desert and India’s village life captivated her soul. Women emerge as the central figures in her work. She continues to paint avidly. A retrospective of her art works was held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York in 1998 in Women of the World: Expressions of their Histories. Her works are in many mediums, on paper, canvas and clay, and in color and ink. She combines in each the poetic, the romantic and the real.
In 1952, Karuna received her degree in Masters of Arts in Hindi from Maharaja College, Jaipur, Rajasthan. She received her second Bachelors degree in 1977 in Education. She is the founding President of the Hindi Sahitya Samiti, Jaipur, Rajasthan. In August 2001 she presented some of her compositions of poetry at the World Hindi Foundation Poets Meet, New Jersey, USA. She has over 40 years of satisfying teaching experience, teaching painting and Hindi. Karuna has taught at Loreto Convent, Delhi, Holy Innocents School, Wellington, APS Delhi, MGD Jaipur, Digvijay Girls College, Jaipur.
Awards, Shows and Publications
2005 Published works of
Hindi poetry in post-graduate academic publication- Unmilan- Poets of Punjab
*The Kashmiri Pandits, A Study of Cultural Choices in North India by Henny Sender p.230
Indian Watercolour Wash Painting
After a century of neglect, the start of the last century saw a movement to revive fine art in India. The roots of this revival lay in the movement to bring national emancipation which had gripped India's imagination at the turn of the 19th Century. Among the first artists of this movement are Ravi Varma and a group know as the Revivalists or the Bengal School.
Abaindranath Thakkur (Tagore), Asit Kumar Haldar, K. Venkatappa, K. N. Majumdar, Nandlal Bose, Surendranath Ganguli, Jamini Roy, Ram Gopal Vijayvirgheya and H.L. Merh are among the prolific painters that represent the revivalist movement with E. B. Havell and Anand Kumarasvami as the guiding critics and scholars.
Havell, Kumarasvami and Abanindranath wanted to infuse Indian art with the breath of its own identity. Unwilling to develop an identity that imaged its colonial rulers they looked East and found inspiration from their eidetic tradition and techniques which consist of imaginative reproduction covering innermost value and emotions.
To encourage the Indian contemporary modern art movement, Havell, an artist and art critic, supported Abanindranath to set up Kala Bhavan, Calcutta. Abanindranath's paintings were in soft pallets depicting the simple village life of India. The Chinese and Japanese technique of soaking paper with water and then painting on it, giving a soft transparent and fluid effect was mastered by these two artists. This technique came to be know as Wash Painting. The most talented artist of the Bengal School, Asit Kumar Haldar was requested by Rabindranath to build up Kala Bhavan. Haldar was Kala Bhavan's principal from 1911-24. Thereafter, Haldar spread the Revivalist movement to Jaipur as principal from 1924-25 of Maharaja College, School of Art. He then moved to the other center of the national movement, the United Provinces. He was principal of Government College of Art and Craft, Lucknow from 1925 to 1945. Until Haldar no Indian had ever been allowed to head a government (British) art college. Art was not offered as a college subject in the Punjab and private art colleges as other aspects of India's development were subjected to colonial policies. Haldar's talent was unstoppable. He became the first Indian artist to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1934. If Abanindranath pioneered the renaissance of Indian art then Haldar took it to the three centers of northern India.
Asit Kumar Haldar was a complete artist. A renowned painter, poet, musician and theater writer, his paintings inspired the poems and writings of Rabindranath Thakkur. Among Haldar's favorite pupils were Ram Gopal Vijayvargheya and H. L. Merh. Vijayvargheya from Jaipur, Rajasthan, combined with the wash technique the tempera style of Rajasthani painting. Merh, from Gujarat was from a family that had migrated to the United Provinces and lived in Lucknow. Merh, was married to a Tamil lady, trained as a nurse and to them was born a daughter. An expert in wash painting he became professor of art teaching at Government Art College, Lucknow when Haldar was its principal, to later become the principal of the college himself. His renderings of the Meghdoot are in the collection of the Lucknow Museum.
After India's independence in 1947, watercolor artists of the wash tradition were ignored. The Revivalists were told that they had served their purpose. Indian artists came into contact with European art of Gauguin, Picasso, Monet and Vincent van Gogh. Art fusion was the new modern. Progression into the new modern was popularly first expressed by depiction of forms via geometric shapes especially the triangles. Classical drawing underlying a Wash painting was denigrated in this process of progression. Watercolor Wash waned. Its artists undeservedly isolated.
These fine artists were not just experts only on watercolor painting but had a firm and strong art grounding in drawing, portraiture, sculpture and oils. Most excelled in more than one art form.
The vitality of the movement can not to be denied. In the case of most 20th century Indian painters who have so far been influential, artistic awareness first began with the more significant works of the Bengal renaissance. If this school takes its place as only one facet in the complicated evolution of modern art, it is nonetheless, particularly by virtue of its chronological position, a highly important one. Its fine works are akin to real jewels.
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