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My father’s visit and getting sent to prison


The Madras Art School, Devi Prasad and a glass of scotch!
KG Subramanyan Artist
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Some of my drawings were taken by a young friend of mine to the principal of the Madras Art School. And Devi Prasad, Roy Choudhury and there was a KCS Paniker who was his young assistant. Both of them thought that they were promising, and Devi Prasad was an impulsive man. Almost within 2 days of that he sent a note with a special peon, in those days they had a sort of hand delivery coming. So I was sitting in the Presidency College in one of the classrooms. In those days the classes were very small and then the Presidency College the way of the MA was also very liberal. You could any time walk out of the class and it was a sort of thing nobody would have done anything. And then I think you had only about 12 to 13 lectures a week. Most of the other time you were in the library or doing...  And then my professor said maybe you have a summons from the government that was this man. So then I went down, then it was nothing like summons, it was just a letter but with a stamp of the principal of the Art School. Well, he was being the first Indian principal of that Art School he had a kind of a status, which was different from the others. So he said and it read more or less like this: come and meet me immediately. You seem to have missed your profession, you are in the wrong place. So here if you come, well, we’ll give you all kinds of freedom to start a new career. So I went to meet him after a while, I think 2 or 3 days. He was very nice in fact he had a sort of a reputation of being a very quixotic man, he might treat you well, he might treat you badly. And but then he was terribly nice, he was very affectionate and said the thing this is what I want. We want you to come over. Really speaking at that time probably Devi Prasad  wanted to attract all kinds of people from everywhere. In fact, if I remember, Paritosh Sen also studied in the Madras Art School. And there were people from Gujarat also who went to the Madras Art School and studied. All on invitation. So I went, he was an interesting man, and if you thought in terms of the stories that you had heard about him he didn’t look that at all. Because he was supposed to be a great eater, and he was a great drinker I have heard. That I could imagine because on his, the glass that should hold water on his table, he had Scotch. He used to sip Scotch most of the time. And he was apparently a very good wrestler and a flute player and all kinds of things. I had heard about that. Anyway then I said, ‘Look, I mean this is where I am so I can’t just make the decision now. But it’s very nice of you to have thought of that and maybe it will change my perspectives’.

KG Subramanyan (1924-2016) was an Indian artist. A graduate of the renowned art college of Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan, Subramanyan was both a theoretician and an art historian whose writings formed the basis for the study of contemporary Indian art. His own work, which broke down the barrier between artist and artisan, was executed in a wide range of media and drew upon myth and tradition for its inspiration.

Listeners: Timothy Hyman

Timothy Hyman is a graduate of Slade School of Fine Art, London, in which he has also taught. In 1980 and 1982, he was Visiting Professor in Baroda, India. Timothy Hyman has curated many significant art exhibitions and has published articles and monographs on both European and Indian artists.

Duration: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: 2008

Date story went live: 10 September 2010