K H Ara

K H Ara (1914-1985)
Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, 1967

Krishnaji Howlaji Ara was born in Bolarum, Secunderabad in April 1914. He was the son of a chauffeur and ran away to Mumbai at the age of seven. He was a self-taught artist who struggled with poverty and made a living by cleaning cars. He was imprisoned for participating in Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha Movement, yet even in such adverse circumstances he continued painting in his spare time.

Ara painted landscapes and paintings on socio-historical themes, but he is widely known for his still life and nudes. He was one of the first contemporary artists to use the female nude as a subject, not straying from the limits of naturalism. While he initially used watercolours, he later moved on to the use of oil paints. He was one of the founding members of the ‘Progressive Artists’ Group’ which was disbanded and renamed into the ‘Bombay Group’ in 1954-55 after the joining of K K Hebbar. He was also the founder and secretary of the Artists’ Aid Center and trustee of the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai.

Amongst Ara’s many honours are the prestigious Governor’s Award for painting in 1944, and the Gold Medal from the Bombay Art Society in 1952. He passed away in Mumbai in 1985.