KG Subramanyan

Subramanyan was born in 1924 in a village in Kerala, India, and initially studied economics at Presidency College, Madras. During freedom struggle he was actively involved and was known for his Gandhian ideology. He was even imprisoned and later banned from joining government colleges during the British Rule. The turning point of his life, as an artist, came when he visited Santiniketan to study in Kala Bhavan, the art faculty of Visva Bharati University, in the year 1944. Under the tutelage such pioneers of modern Indian art as Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij, Subramanyan studied there till 1948.

In 1951 he became a lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts in M.S. University in Baroda. He went to study briefly in London at the Slade School of Art as a British Council scholar in 1956. While having already gone back to Baroda as a professor in painting and continuing there, he did a short stint in New York as a Rockefeller Fellow in 1966. In 1980, Subramanyan went back to Santiniketan to teach in his alma mater Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, in his capacity as a professor in painting, which he continued till he retired in 1989. In the same year he was made a Professor Emeritus of Visva Bharati.

  • 1951–59 Lecturer in Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1955–56 British Council Research Scholar, UK
  • 1959–61 Deputy Director (design), All India Handloom Board, Bombay
  • 1961–65 Reader in Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1966–80 Professor of Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1961–66 Design Consultant, All India
  • 1966–67 Fellowship of The JDR III Fund, New York
  • 1968–74 Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1975 Elected to the World Crafts Council
  • Delegate, Asian Assembly, World Craft Council, Sydney
  • 1976 Member delegate, General Assembly, World Craft Council, Oaxtepec, Mexico
  • Visiting lecturer, Canadian universities: Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton
  • 1977–78 Visiting Fellow, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 1980–89 Professor of Painting, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 1985 Guest, Chinese Artists Association, China
  • 1987–88 Christensen Fellow, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford
  • 1989 Professor Emeritus, Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 2004 Left Santiniketan and shifted back to Baroda in September.

Honours and awards

  • 1957 Bombay Art Society Award
  • 1959 Bombay Art Society Award
  • 1961 Maharastra State Award
  • 1963 Medallion of Honourable Mention, Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil
  • 1965 National Award, Lalit Kala Akademi, New 1968 Gold Medal, The First International Triennale, New Delhi
  • 1975 Padma Shree, Government of India
  • 1981 Kalidas Samman
  • 1985 Fellow, Lalit Kala Akademi
  • 1991 Gagan-Aban Puraskar, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 1992 D.Litt (Honoris Causa), Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta
  • 1993 Fellow, Kerala Lalit Kala Akademi
  • 1994 Shiromani Puraskar, Calcutta
  • 1997 D.Litt (Honoris Causa), Benaras Hindu University, Benaras
  • 1999 Kala Ratna, All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi
  • 2000 Jadunath Sarkar Gold Medal, Asiatic Society, Calcutta
  • 2000 Abanindra Puraskar, Calcutta
  • 2001 Gana Krishti Puraskar, Government of West Bengal
  • 2001 Manaviyam Ravi Varma Award, Government of Kerala
  • 2004 Lalit Kala Ratna awarded by the Lalit Kala Akademi on the occasion of its golden jubilee. (on 9th Aug. 2004)
  • 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award, Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata
  • 2006 Aditya Vikram Birla Kalashikhar Puraskar
  • 2006 Awarded Padmabushan by the Government of India
  • 2009 Awarded Dishikottam, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan
  • 2011 Awarded D.Litt (Honoris Causa), Assam University, Silchar.
  • 2012 Awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India

Memberships and Associations[edit]

  • 1961–67 All India Board of Technical Studies in Applied Art
  • 1961–65 Gujarat Lalit Kala Akademi
  • 1967–79 Lalit Kala Akademi
  • 1968–74 Gujarat Lalit Kala Akademi
  • 1967–77 All India Handicrafts Board
  • 1974–76 President, Crafts Council of India
  • 1974–75 Member of Direction, World Crafts Council
  • 1974–78 Member of the Governing Council, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad
  • 1981–84 Member Siksha-samiti and Karma-samiti of Visva Bharati, Santiniketan
  • 1981–84 Member of the All India Handloom and Handicrafts Board

Has also been on the Board of studies of M.S. University, Baroda; Benaras Hindu University, Benaras; Punjab University, Chandigarh; College of Fine Arts, Trivadrum, Kerala; Faculty of Fine Arts, Bombay University; Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta etc. Member of the Editorial advisory Board of Leonardo


  • 1978 Moving Focus: Essays on Indian Art, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. (Reissued by Seagull Books, Calcutta in 2006)
  • 1987 The Living Tradition, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 1992 The Creative Circuit, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 2006 Translation of Benodebehari Mukherjee’s Chitrakar, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 2007 Poems, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • 2007 The Magic of Making: Essays on Art and Culture, Seagull Books, Calcutta

Illustrated Books

  • 1969 When God First Made the Animals He Made Them All Alike
  • 1972 The Butterfly and the Cricket, A Summer Story, Robby
  • 1974 Our Friends the Ogres, The King and the Little Man
  • 1979 How Poppy Grew happy, Cat’s Night and Day, Frog Life is Fun Life
  • 1985 Of Ogres Beasts and Men (When God First Made the Animals He Made Them All Alike, Our Friends the Ogres, and The King and the Little Man reissued as a boxed set)
  • 1995 How Hanu Became Hanuman, Death in Eden, In the Zoo (All three reissued in 1996)
  • 1998 The Tale of the Talking Face


  • 1955 Jyoti Ltd., Baroda Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda
  • 1963 ‘King of the Dark Chamber’, Rabindralaya, Lucknow
  • 1965 India Pavilion, New York World Fair, New York
  • 1969 ‘India of my Dreams Pavilion’, Gandhi Darshan, New Delhi
  • 1976 R & D Building, Jyoti Pvt. Ltd., Baroda
  • 1988 Sand cast Cement Mural, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan
  • 1989 Reverse painting on Glass Mural (with school children), Santiniketan
  • 1990 Black and White Mural, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan (first phase)
  • 1993 Black and White Mural, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan (second phase)
  • 2009 Black and White Mural (2nd version) Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan (Nov – Dec)

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