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Ram Kumar

Born in 1924 in Simla, Ram Kumar was among India’s leading modernists. He studied Economics at St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, in 1946. Following this, he went to Paris to study painting under Andre Lhote and Fernard Leger in 1949-1952. 
Ram Kumar, like many of his confreres among the first generation of post-colonial Indian artists - including such figures as F N Souza, M F Husain, Paritosh Sen, Jehangir Sabavala, Krishen Khanna, S H Raza and Akbar Padamsee - combined an internationalist desire with the need to belong emphatically to their homeland. In its internationalist mood, this generation looked to the early 20th-century modernisms of Paris, London and Vienna for inspiration; its need to belong prompted an interest in the construction of a viable ‘Indian’ aesthetic that bore a dynamic relationship to an Indian identity. With Ram Kumar, this quest for an indigenist tenor has not meant a superficial inventory of ‘native’ motifs offered as evidence of a static and essentialist Indian identity. Instead, as I have already suggested, he demonstrates that a painter can enact the innermost dramas of his culture while maintaining the individuality, even idiosyncrasy of his performance. 
Ram Kumar’s recent paintings attest, also, to another kind of reconciliation: since the aesthetic experience belongs, eventually, to the realm of samsara rather than that of nirvana, it cannot be defined by severity of structure alone; the impulse towards the voluptuary insinuates itself even into the sternest asceticism. Motivated by one pole of his sensibility, Ram Kumar has often acted as an ‘inquisitor of structures’ (the phrase is Wallace Stevens’), translating the earth in the idiom of the surveyor’s map, so that a topographical code of contour lines and benchmarks constrains the deep saturations of the landscape. But he has also been tempted to oscillate to the other and romantic pole of his sensibility: taking a passionate and unabashed delight in the physicality of the vista, its capacity for moodiness and unstable beauty, he has celebrated the flush of magnolias in bloom, the gravid slopes borne down by clouds. 
Excerpts from Parts of a World: Reflections on the Art of Ram Kumar by Ranjit Hoskote, 2002
The artist passed away on 14 April 2018