Thursday, 15 January 2009

Sir Sobha Singh

Sir Sobha Singh (1901-1986) is arguably the most well known contemporary painter Punjab has ever produced and is amongst the greatest Indian artists of the twentieth century. He was born on 29 November 1901 in a Ramgarhia Sikh family in Sri Hargobindpur, Gurdaspur district of Punjab and his father, Deva Singh, was in the Indian cavalry. He learnt and mastered painting by self practice. In 1919 he was present at the Jalianwala Bagh at the time of the shootings. Later, he joined the British India army as a draughtsman and was posted at various places in Iraq. He studied European Paintings and got inspiration from the works of English painters. At the age 15, Sobha Singh entered the Industrial School at Amritsar for a one-year course in art and crafts. In 1949 after the partition he was forced to move from Lahore, where he had opened a studio at Anarkali, he then settled down in Andretta near Palampur, a remote and picturesque village in the Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh beginning his career as a painter. His paintings of Sohni Mahiwal and Heer Ranjha proved very popular, his series on the Sikh guru's Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh are amongst the most mass produced pictures of the Guru's. Some of his murals are displayed in the art gallery of the Indian parliament House in New Delhi. He painted Sohni Mahiwal, one of the most popular love legends of Punjab, for the first time in 1937 and he also worked on other love tales of Punjab. Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu, Shirin Farhad and Mirzan Sahiban are other beautiful paintings. Sobha also dabbled in sculpture, sculpting the busts of eminent Punjabi's such as M.S. Randhawa, Prithviraj Kapoor, the patriarch of the Kapoor family, and Nirmal Chandra. The originals of his works are still displayed in his studio at Andretta. Sobha Singh died in Chandigarh on 21 August 1986. In his honour the Indian Government issued a postal stamp in 2001 and the road linking the Palampur town and Andretta has been renamed in his honour. Sir Sobha Singh is pictured with Amrita Pritam of whom he was sculpting a bust of, but did not complete. Below are a selection from some of his best artworks, from top Sohni Mahiwal, Palace of Bhutan and Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

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