"The more I saw, the more I admired the Master's genius."
India has many famous paintings about love, with some having been loved for centuries. More contemporary Indian paintings have been sold for a fortune.
Indian art is loved for the impressive skill of the artists. These artists can depict a love story in a truly exquisite way.
These famous paintings are immortal thanks to this brilliant skill. A painting that beautifully depicts love is particularly captivating.
Love comes in many forms. Sometimes it is unreciprocated, sometimes romantic, and other times magical.
Because love is so varied, individuals can relate to the different types of love depicted in these famous Indian paintings.
India has a wealth of paintings to discuss, so here are some of our favourites.
Unrequited Love: Urvashi and King Pururavas circa (1870)
This artwork was created by Raja Ravi Varma. He is considered to be one of the greatest artists from India.
In this painting, we see the perfect encapsulation of unrequited love. It depicts a man and a woman. But the woman is literally floating away as the man desperately holds on.
The man is clearly in love as he looks up at the woman in admiration. He even holds his right hand to his heart.
The woman, however, seems uninterested. She looks down on him and holds out her hand as a message for him to stop.
This painting is, in fact, a depiction of a famous love story between King Pururavas and the celestial nymph Urvashi. It dates back to a Sanskrit drama titled Vikramorvasiyam.
The colours in this piece are beautiful. The pink in the dress of Urvashi contrasts wonderfully with the green and blue sky behind her.
Just as love can be a beautiful thing, so is this scene. The clothes, faces and even the buildings are ornate and decorative.
One can closely see glamourous pearls draped around the neck of Urvashi, while King’s Pururuavas’ hands are decorated with gold rings and bracelets.
Hopeful Love: Shakuntala (1870)
Another famous painting about love is Shakuntala. Any discussion on famous Indian art would be incomplete without this masterpiece by Raja Ravi Verma.
In this painting, titled Shakuntala, we see Shakuntala, who is a character from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata.
She stops to touch her foot, appearing to remove a thorn. In reality, she is using this as an excuse to stop and look back at her lover.
It seems that she is hoping he will notice her. Perhaps she is just wondering what he is doing. Either way, here we see a woman totally distracted by her love for someone else.
Her friends behind her smile to each other, suggesting that they can tell that she is pretending to pull the thorn. They know what she is really up to.
Part of the reason why this painting is so famous is because of the way the viewer is immersed in the scene. Some viewers can feel themselves amongst the group of women.
The vivid reds and purple in this scene also add to the idyllic nature of the painting.
This painting is incredibly popular. It is known by many as one of India’s artistic masterpieces. As Parasram Mangharam, the author of Raja Ravi Varma, The Painter Prince (2003) states:
“The more I saw, the more I admired the Master’s genius.”
This author was particularly impressed by the way Raja Ravi Verma tells a story through his paintings, mentioning:
“His uncanny ability, through the magic of his brush to depict mood, emotion and atmosphere and to encapsulate the whole story in the selected scene.”
It is truly an impressive representation of a woman hopeful for the love of her partner.
Relaxed Love: Nala Damayanti (1909)
Sometimes love can be depicted as dramatic. However, in Nala Damayanti by MV Dhurandhar, love appears to be relaxed and tranquil.
Recognised as India’s most accomplished academic artist, Dhurandhar was trained at Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai.
This painting depicts a serene image of two lovers relaxing amongst beautiful nature. The woman appears to be sleeping while the man calmly looks out into the distance.
The colours compliment each other beautifully here. Similarly to Urvashi and King Pururavas, the warm orange and red complement the cooler green and blue tones.
Another interesting feature of Nala Damayanti is that the partners are wearing matching garments. Both the man and the woman are wrapped in a beautiful blue and gold material.
These clothes indicate their wealth. In fact, their names suggest that the individuals are based on an Indian king and queen.
In this painting, however, they both appear to have no royal responsibilities.
They are calm at ease with each other and the world around them.
Magical love: Bengal Fairy Tales, 1920
Abanindranath Tagore, born in 1871, was renowned for his paintings and writing. He was also the founder of the Indian Society of Oriental Art and the Bengal School of Art.
This made him an influential figure in the development of modern Indian painting.
This famous painting from 1920 depicts two women in a fairy-tale image. They appear to be amongst the clouds and the moon thanks to some form of magic.
They are gently holding each other, and their expressions are calm and serene.
This famous Indian painting depicts love as something that can feel magical, especially as if you’re floating amongst the clouds.
The painting differs with some of the more vibrant and colourful Indian paintings.
The colours of this painting are far more neutral, with cream and brown dominating the piece. However, Gold detail adds depth to the painting. It also adds to the delightful atmosphere of the image.
Self Love: Self Portrait (1931)
A type of love that is less commonly discussed is that of self-love. Loving oneself in a non-narcissistic, but self-empowering way is a beautiful thing to capture in art.
This self-portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil is world-famous. In this painting, the prominent modern artist is shown at the age of eighteen.
She is only young but looks at the viewer with intense confidence. She seems to be saying “yes, this is me. I’m proud of who I am.”
Her confidence is emphasised by her vibrant red lipstick. It is hardly the makeup choice of a timid woman.
The inspiring aspect about this piece is how she owns the canvas.
She clearly sees herself as a powerful woman and it is empowering to see such a depiction of self-love.
This self-portrait was the first of Amrita Sher-Gil to be offered in Christie’s London auction house.
Her paintings have sold for millions of pounds. Others, however, are seen as Indian national treasures and so never leave India.
Romantic Love: Man & Woman Bathing Together circa (1940)
This 20th-century romantic painting by Indian artist BK Mitra displays a heavenly scene.
The man and woman in this piece are playfully washing together amongst idyllic scenery. Behind them is a grand building, perhaps a palace, while in front of them are hundreds of delicate flowers.
The woman’s gaze towards the man suggests curiosity. Her stance, however, is not shy. She confidently stands in the pool with nothing to hide.
What really brings this painting together is the red detail on the garments of the work. The other colours appear neutral when compared to this bold splash of vibrancy.
Another fantastic aspect of this painting is how much can be revealed through closer inspection. For example, if you look carefully you can see a mountain in the background and a blackbird in the trees.
This Indian painting depicts love as carefree and playful, with a dash of luxury.
Love for your own: Birth (1955)
Love is not always mystical and romantic. Often it is about vulnerability and the unconditional love for someone else regardless of the circumstances.
An example of this kind of love can be found in Souza’s 1955 painting Birth. As the title suggests it depicts a woman giving birth to a child, with her partner at her side.
This painting by Francis Newton Souza was incredibly successful. In 2008 it was sold for over £1 million.
Souza is originally from Goa in India. He was one of the first Indian post-Independence artists to gain recognition in Britain.
The style of his work shown in this painting is unique and impressive. The harsh and sharp lines that make up the artwork are highlighted by bold black outlines.
Despite being ready to give birth, the woman in this painting appears to be serene. The gentle touch of her husband’s hand on her leg is a kind gesture.
It is a wonderful depiction of love for your own. Love for your own wife, your own husband, and your own soon-to-be-born child.
Indian artists are incredibly skilled. Their depictions of love are particularly impressive.
It is no surprise that Indian paintings depicting love such as these have become so famous.