6 Top Indian Female Sculptors you Need to Know

India has produced a wide range of creatives in multiple disciplines and these Indian female sculptors emphasise the depth of Indian art.

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

"I believe in an integrated approach to art and craft"

Many Indian female sculptors have left their mark on the artistic world using their bare hands.

As a country that utilises a lot of its raw materials, India has a lot of beautiful sculptures that people can see on every street.

Surrounded by such visually compelling sights has therefore triggered many women to enter the artistic discipline of sculpting.

Whilst male Indian sculptors like Ramkinkar Baij and Adi Davierwala are very popular, the female opposites have had an equal impact on Indian art and the wider landscape.

We take a look at those who have the greatest influence and have pushed Indian sculptures into the limelight.

Leela Mukherjee

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Born in 1916, Leela Mukherjee trained as a painter and sculptor in Santiniketan, West Bengal.

Here, she met her husband and popular artist Benode Behari Mukherjee, for whom she helped with murals for the school he worked at.

Undoubtedly influenced by the work of Ramkinkar Baij, Leela sought to have her own fledging practice and started to learn the art of wood and stone carving in 1949.

Learning under the guide of Nepali artisan Kulasundar Shilakarmi, Leela learned how to reflect her environment through her art.

Whether that was her natural surroundings or human emotion, Leela could convey it all.

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Art Historian, Ella Dutta, explained why Leela’s sculptures were so captivating in a piece for The Time of India in 1989:

“In contrast to the distorted, anguished view of the self and the other in the works of expressionist painters, Leela Mukehrjee’s world-view is more holistic.

“It is a reflection of life that is germinating, pulsating, burgeoning. Her world is not anthropocentric although it is a humane one.

“Plants, flowers, monkeys, horses, cows, birds, children, adults claim equal attention in a colourful mosaic of existence.”

As one of the most well-documented Indian female sculptors in history, Leela’s pieces have been exhibited at several shows.

These include the All-India Sculpture Exhibition (1959) and Major Trends in Indian Art (1997).

Leela’s work also has a permanent spot in the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi.

Whilst she sadly died in 2009 aged 69, Leela’s work continues to succeed.

Pilloo Pochkhanawala

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Pilloo Pochkhanawala was born in 1923 and similarly to Leela, was one of the first few female Indian sculptors.

Often inspired by nature and human figures, Pilloo was a self-taught artist and used various materials like metal, stone and wood to detail her ideas.

What made Pilloo so creative was her experimental approach to her art. She was fascinated with the close boundaries of space and how abstract sculptures could become.

Her early work is inspired by Henry Moore, a British artist known for his dynamic pieces.

Whilst at the start of her career, Pilloo’s work would mainly feature women seated, she eventually broadened her work with one of her signature styles being distorted arrangements of motifs.

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

In addition to her art, Pilloo facilitated the arts in Bombay and organised the Bombay Art Festival from the 60s onwards.

She had a leading role in transforming the Sir Cowasji Jehangir Hall into the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai.

The Gallery is one of India’s leading museums of contemporary art.

Meera Mukherjee

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Meera Mukherjee is one of the most celebrated Indian female sculptors.

She was trained in the pictorial style which favoured classic Indian traditions over western trends.

Having enrolled in the Delhi Polytechnic College in 1941, Meera went to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich between 1953 and 1956.

This three-year stint in Germany distanced Meera from her artistic education and she quickly realised that Munich wasn’t fulfilling her creative drive.

Questioning her identity, the sculptor went to Madhya Pradesh to study the traditional lost wax technique of the Gharuan people.

This tour of India gave Meera invaluable experience in seeing traditional craftsmen use different methods to achieve varying results – a skill she could use for her own art.

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

She became known for innovating the bronze casting technique which became her signature style. In the exhibition catalogue Remembering Meera Mukherjee, it states:

“Meera’s world in bronze is full of movement.

“The viewers’ eyes do not only follow the flowing contours of the figures but also the patterns, lineatures and ornamentations animating the surfaces of her bronze sculptures.

“None of these figures is profane in the western sense as all of them seem to be imbibed with something of the divine and to pulsate with flowing forces and energies.”

Meera’s attention to detail and ability to manipulate metal to achieve such emotive sculptors is truly impressive.

Mrinalini Mukherjee

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Raised in a utopian community in West Bengal, Mrinalini Mukherjee’s career spans four decades.

Working closely with fibre, bronze and ceramic, Mrinalini’s work is obsessed with abstract figuration and has influences from nature, ancient Indian sculptures and traditional textiles.

Whilst her early work was heavily botanic-inspired, she switched to rope in the early 70s and used a hand-knotting technique to create soft sculptures.

These pieces stood tall like huge deities you find across South Asian temples.

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Although Mrinalini’s work is heavily acknowledged, she didn’t receive a major exhibition until 1994 at The Modern Art Oxford.

Speaking on her artistic approach to her craft, Mrinalini expressed:

“In India the arts have always existed alongside each other, at different levels of sophistication.”

“India has an enormous wealth of craft, and I believe in an integrated approach to art and craft.

“It is through my relationship to my material that I would like to reach out and align myself with the values that exist within the ambit of contemporary sculpture.”

Mrinalini was a trailblazer in that whilst she experimented with materials, she also played around with form and positioning.

Her sculptures would sometimes suspend from the ceiling, be freestanding or positioned against a wall.

She would also give colour to her work, using yellows, purples and oranges to help accentuate human sensuality and feeling.

Kanaka Murthy

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Born in 1942, Kanaka Murthy was fascinated by sculpting and attended the first art school in Bangalore – Kalamandira.

Although Kanaka’s passion for craftsmanship was high, she was derailed by many people because the field was “not fit for women”.

However, she became a pioneer by breaking down the barriers for many female Indian sculptors.

Her Guru, D Vadiraja, gave her a lot of training and strength to pursue her dreams against the wishes of her traditionalist community.

But Vadiraja was a free spirit and that lived through Kanaka as her sculptures didn’t follow strict guidelines.

Her work is both traditional and modern and that balance is difficult to achieve when you take into account the period of time she was blossoming.

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

She was mostly known for her stone portraits that were created after famous figures that impacted Kanaka’s life.

These included musicians like Doraiswamy Iyengar and T Chowdiah.

Due to her celebration of Indian culture, over 200 of the artists’ sculptures are installed in public places in the country.

On top of that, she’s also won a number of awards such as the Karnataka Jakanachari Award and the State Shilpakala Academy Award.

She is also the only female to have received the Janakachari Award, a state award for talented sculptures and craftsmen.

Shilpa Gupta

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

Hailing from Mumbai, Shila Gupta is one of the most popular and famous Indian female sculptors on the scene.

Having studied sculpture at the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts, Shilpa is interested in human interaction and how information gets transmitted in everyday life.

Her work is drawn to objects, people, experiences and how these zones fuse together in society.

One particular aspect of her work is the gender and class barriers within India as well as government repression and political differences.

Using a number of different materials and forms, Shilpa’s work has been featured across the world in places like Tate Modern, Louisiana Museum and Serpentine Gallery.

7 Best Female Sculptors from India

When talking about her aspirations and the goals for her pieces, she says:

“I think when we are looking at an art object, we look for meaning, experience or some kind of resolve.

“Then there are those who would like the art object to have a direct consequence – and one often hears the same story, why art, why not direct action?

“But does everything have to have a utility?

“There is so much we experience as human beings, and not all of it can be expressed through verbal language.

“There is still space for other languages, and art is one of them.”

These Indian female sculptors have and continue to redefine the artistic landscape in India and across the world.

These artists have broken down the barriers for more women to succeed in this field.

Moreover, they’ve also shone a light on how diverse India is when it comes to creative disciplines.

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

Images courtesy of Instagram.

  • What's New



  • Polls

    What is your favourite Beauty Brand?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Share to...