Ram Kumar
Born(1924-09-23)23 September 1924[1]
Died14 April 2018(2018-04-14) (aged 93)
EducationSharada Ukil School of Art, New Delhi (1945)
Known forPainting
AwardsFellowship of the Lalit Kala Akademi, 2011[2]

Padma Bhushan, 2010[3]
Lifetime Achievement Award,
Government of Delhi[4]

Officers Arts et Letter, 2003
Kalidas Samman, 1986
Premchand Puraskar, 1972
Padmashree, 1972

J. D. Rockefeller III Fellowship, New York, 1970[5]

Ram Kumar (23 September 1924[6] – 14 April 2018) was an Indian artist and writer who has been described as one of India's foremost abstract painters.[7] He was associated with the Progressive artists' group along with greats like M.F. Hussain, Tyeb Mehta, S.H. Raza.[8] He is said to be one of the first Indian artists to give up figurativism for abstract art.[9] His art commands high prices in the domestic and international market. His work "The Vagabond" fetched $1.1 million at Christie's, setting another world record for the artist. He is also one of the few Indian Modernist masters accomplished in writing as well as painting.[10]

Early life and education

Ram Kumar Verma was born in Shimla, the capital of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh in a large middle-class family of eight brothers and sisters.[11] His father was a government employee from Patiala in Punjab, India who worked in the Civil and Administrative Division in the British Government.[12][13] While pursuing M.A. in Economics from St. Stephen's College, Delhi,[14] he chanced upon an art exhibition in 1945.[15] One evening, after "loitering" around Connaught Place with his friends from St Stephen's College, he landed up at an art exhibition.[16]

I saw paintings like that for the first time and it made me so intrigued that I returned several times".[16]

Ram Kumar took classes at the Sharda Ukil School of Art under Sailoz Mukherjee and gave up employment at a bank in 1948 to pursue art.[17] Sailoz Mukherjee was a painter from Shantiniketan School[18] who introduced him to still life painting with live models.[19] While a student there, he met Raza at an exhibition. Raza and Ram became good friends.[20] He convinced his father to pay for a one-way ticket to Paris and studied further there under Andre Lhote and Fernand Léger.[21] In Paris, the pacificist peace movement attracted him and he joined the French Communist Party. Seeking inspiration in the Social Realists such as Kathe and Fourgenon.[22] He was befriended by S.H. Raza and MF Hussain who are two major artists.[23]


Ram Kumar painted abstract landscapes, usually in oil or acrylic.[24] He was also associated with the Progressive artists' group.[25]

Ram Kumar has participated in various exhibitions in and out of India, including the 1958 Venice Biennale[26] and the Festival of India shows in the then USSR and Japan in 1987 and 1988.[27] One of Ram Kumar's latest solo exhibitions was in 2008 in Delhi.[28] Ram Kumar also wrote in Hindi and eight collections of his works have been published, as well as two novels and a travelogue.[29]

The human condition is the main concern of the painter[30] manifested in his early works by the alienated individual within the city.[21] Later the city, specifically Varanasi with its dilapidated, crammed houses, conveys a sense of hopelessness.[31] Increasingly abstract works done in sweeping strokes of paint evoke both exultation of natural spaces and more recently an incipient violence within human habitation.[21]

As the interest in Indian art has grown, paintings by Ram Kumar are getting increasing recognition in the art market.[32]

Ram Kumar received the Padma Shri in 1972[33] and the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour, in 2010.[34] Lal Bhi Udhaas Ho Sakta Hai (Even Red Can be Sad), a 2015 documentary feature directed by Amit Dutta and produced by the Government of India's Films Division charts the various works of Kumar.[35]

Personal life

Ram Kumar was also the older brother of the famous Hindi writer, Nirmal Verma and younger brother of Colonel, Raj Kumar Verma. He lived and worked in Delhi until his death in 2018.[36]

Awards and honours


  1. ^ India Who's who 1995-96, p. 273
  2. ^ a b "The fellowship of Shri Ram Kumar". Lalit Kala Akademi. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  3. ^ "Padma Bhushan Awardees". Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  4. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  5. ^ "Bio Summary". Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  6. ^ "India Who's who". 1995.
  7. ^ Indian and Foreign Review. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (India). 24: 20. 1986. ISSN 0019-4379. ((cite journal)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "Progressive artist's group". Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  9. ^ "Ram Kumar artistic intensity of an ascetic". Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 26 March 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ "Portrait of an Artist". Outlook. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  11. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  12. ^ "ArtistInterview". Saffron Art. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  13. ^ "Nirmal Verma Obituary". Rediff. Retrieved 30 March 2012.
  14. ^ Lal, Sham; Gagan Gill (1996). Ram Kumar: a journey within. Vadehra Art Gallery. p. 209. OCLC 36556291.
  15. ^ "Ram Kumar Interview". Saffron Art. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  16. ^ a b "True Colours". The Indian Express. 19 December 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  17. ^ "Ram Kumar: Artistic Intensity of an Ascetic". Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  18. ^ "Oil Paintings from Bengal". Retrieved 30 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Ram Kumar a transition from figurative". Archived from the original on 20 November 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  20. ^ "Artist Profile". The Art Trust. Retrieved 30 March 2012.
  21. ^ a b c Treves, Toby (2006). Indian art: the moderns revisited, Volume 1. Vadehra Art Gallery. p. 42. ISBN 978-81-87737-19-3.
  22. ^ "Artistic intensity of an ascetic". Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  23. ^ Kapur, Geeta (1978). Contemporary Indian artists. Vikas. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-7069-0527-4.
  24. ^ Chawla, Rupika (1995). Surface and depth: Indian artists at work. Viking. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-670-86174-3.
  25. ^ "Progressive artist's group". Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  26. ^ Jachec, Nancy (2008). Politics and painting at the Venice Biennale, 1948–64: Italy and the idea of Europe. Manchester University Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-7190-6896-6.
  27. ^ Vishwambara, K. S. (1998). Movement in Indian art, a tribute. Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. p. 91. OCLC 62857926.
  28. ^ "A colourful friendship". The Indian Express. 18 January 2008. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  29. ^ Kumar, Ram (2004). The face & other stories. Vadehra Art Gallery. p. 16. ISBN 978-81-87737-06-3.
  30. ^ Lal, Sham (2003). Indian realities in bits and pieces. Rupa & Co. p. 513. ISBN 978-81-291-0247-8.
  31. ^ "Breadth of lifescapes". The Hindu. 7 July 2002. Archived from the original on 8 July 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2009.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  32. ^ "Second knock". Lucknow Newsline. Indian Express Group. 24 September 2005. Retrieved 26 September 2009.[dead link]
  33. ^ "Search Awardees". My India, My Pride. National Informatics Centre. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  34. ^ "Doctors and artists in Delhi's Padma gallery". The Times of India. 26 January 2010. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  35. ^ "Even Red Can be Sad | Films Division". filmsdivision.org. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  36. ^ "Ram Kumar (1924-2018): In Memoriam". 16 April 2018.
  37. ^ "Artist Bio - Ram Kumar". Retrieved 29 March 2012.