Amrita Sher-Gil flashed through the Indian artistic horizon like an incandescent meteor. Her place in the trajectory of Indian modern art is unquestionably pre eminent. Her aesthetic sensibility shows not surprisingly a blend of European and Indian elements. Sher-Gil’s Sikh father, Umrao Singh Sher-Gil was an owner of landed estates and among other things, he was also a skilled photographer. Her mother, Marie Antoinette was Hungarian. Sher-Gil’s art education was completed in Paris where she was influenced by the post impressionists like Gauguin. While her childhood years were spent travelling between India and Europe, she returned to India in the mid 30s of the 20th century with a wish to make India her home.
Sher-Gil’s visual language introduced a host of new elements in modern Indian art. For one, her handling of the oil medium opened up new possibilities for a future generation of artists. Her distinctive vision left its mark on pre-Independence modern painting.
Sher-Gil’s female forms demand attention, they [female forms] are both sensuous and vulnerable. They are subjects and objects at the same time. Besides her subtly expressive representation of the female figure, Sher-Gil also wove in ingeniously, narrative elements of miniature paintings in her work and for the first time, we see intimate portrayals of domestic scenes.
In this painting, painted in 1940 Sher-Gil expresses a passive sexuality in the female form represented. The scene, intimate, shows a woman clad in red, representing desire, the diagonal positioning of her body across the canvas and the positioning of the legs are highly suggestive and provocative. The attendant dozing and the composition of the painting heightens the air of anticipation and captures the emotional state of the woman.