The artist at work in her studio
A set of water colours by artist B. Prabha marked the start of the Air-India
art collection in the early 1950s.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Thus started Air-India's art collection, now the nations greatest collection of art, artefacts and other historical objects outside a museum. it was in the early 1950s that B. Prabha had come to Bombay having studied at the Nagur School of Art, and enrolled here at the Sir J. J School of Art. She had produced a series of 6-8 water colours, quite small in size, and themed on Indian Women. These were the first paintings purchased by Air-India and for a mere eighty-seven rupees and eight annas each.
The paintings were used to adorn the covers of in-flight menu cards, and then displayed at the airlines London booking office. Even as recently as 1995, when the London office was refurbished, these paintings were carefully re-framed and prominently displayed there.
B. Prabha (1933–2001) was a major Indian artist who worked mainly in oil, in an instantly recognizable style. She is best known for graceful elongated figures of pensive rural women, with each canvas in a single dominant color. By the time of her death, her work had been shown in over 50 exhibitions, and is in some important collections, including India's National Gallery of Modern Art. Prabha started working at a time when India had few women artists; her inspiration was Amrita Shergil. She was moved by the lives of rural women, and over time, they became the main theme of her work. In an interview with "Youngbuzz India," she said:“I have yet to see one happy woman.”
Before moving to Bombay she studied at the Nagpur School of Art. She was a graduate of the Sir J. J. School of Art, alma mater to many of India's great contemporary artists. In 1956 she married artist and sculptor B. Vithal, who died in 1992. Prabha came to Bombay as a struggling artist, with little money "Rs2 and 11 paise. She sold some pieces of jewellery to raise funds. She and her artist husband were aided by friends who gave them a place to stay and by others who stored their art-work. Her first exhibition, while she was still a student, set her on the path to success when three of her paintings were acquired by eminent Indian scientist Homi J. Bhabha. (biographical information source: Wikipedia)
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