Born: 1939

Manu Parekh - Paintings


A third generation Modernist, Manu Parekh was born in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat in 1939 and came to his career in the 1960s. In conversation, he often connects his work today with his early years in the art making, without necessarily drawing a continuous line over the five decades. Drawing for him was not and has not been for public display. It is a private process where ideas are developed, much in a way a schoolboy might go to the tuck shop and get a cake to eat under a tree while class is in progress. As he has stated in many published interviews, Parekh first went to Banaras at a turning point. Having decided to enter modernism via Paul Klee and through the teachings of S.B. Palsikar at the J.J. School of Art, he decided to experiment with creating a modernism that was engaged with India’s vernacular art forms such as rangoli, embroidery etc., which were familiar to him from his childhood in Gujarat. When he began living with Madhvi Parekh after their early marriage and discovered that she too wanted to paint and was a strong artist in her own right, Parekh decided to abandon his desire to create a vernacular modernism because his wife was already developing this project and producing strong work. He renewed his search for language and encountered many vernacular art forms during his work with the Weaver’s Service Centre when he travelled across western, northern, and eastern

Sher-Gil - Indian Artist

India assisting craftspeople. Living in Kolkata for ten years, he gained access to new artistic milieu where conversation about ideas was part of everyday life. Visually too, Kolkata had a huge impact. It made him more aware of something that he had started understanding long ago; that women were strong and carried a power that men often could not discern or only perceived with fear. In 1975, Parekh and his family moved to Delhi, a shift that provoked a terrible crisis in his practice which continued for several years. In Kolkata, Parekh learned to enjoy being a flaneur and absorbing the energy of the great metropolis; the poverty, the heat, the food and the people of the nineteenth century colonial city fed his work. Delhi in contrast was a ‘beautiful garden’ but disconnected from the

reality that he had come to paint in his chosen language of figurative abstraction. Over five years, he suffered and felt the relationship between his work and the life which surrounded him become more and more attenuated. By 1980, he decided to go somewhere that would help him return to flesh and blood experience. Banaras naturally pulled him; he had been there before in 1979 and was quite attracted to its picturesque qualities. He was deeply impressed with the city’s structure not plainly looking into its architecture but rather on the structure of human activity. Banaras’ sky which keeps changing and playing

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with the colours of the river and the sky’s reflection onto it. Also, his father died recently and there was a need to find a place to gain perspective, closure and renewal. the visit gave him profound visual experiences that led him to recognize that unpredictability of human endeavor and which freed him to find visual to find visual material in the aesthetics of the unrelenting cycle of life in a place that is both ancient and continually transforming. He started painting the city, a theme that he has elaborated for more than three decades. These ghat paintings, as I call them, are all visuals perceived from a boat, an observation that the artist’s daughter, Manisha Parekh, first brought to his attention. they have transformed over the years; strong geometry painted in earthy colours has led to very expressionistic brush marks made in sweeping strokes in electric colours , especially indigo blue, purple and India green. Along the way, he has incorporated his love of miniature paintings from the Pahari courts.

Parekh considers himself more of a physical painter rather than an intellectual even if his paintings are inspired by the beauty of poetry, fiction, history, and criticism that he reads. He admired activities of the common people in Banaras, watching over the ghats as people say their prayers, do mundane things, bath, sleep, enjoy the air, talk to friends, do yoga. For him, it was the world in miniature and there is not a second of silence. Still, deep within him is a sense of solitude despite the hustle and bustle of this magnificent city.

Between 1965 and 1975 when he lived in Kolkata, he met and inaugurated lasting friendships with the writer Shakti Chattopadhyaya and Subhash Mukhopadhyaya; the artists Somnath Here, Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne and Shyammal Dutta Ray. In 1975 he shifted to New Delhi as a consultant to the Handicrafts Handloom Export Corporation of India. He resigned his job in 1990 and embarked on a fresh phase of life as an independent artist. A benchmark exhbition of his mixed-media paintings, made in homage to the victims of the infamous Bhagalpur blindings in Mumbai, followed soon after by his ‘Banaras Landscape’ exhibition in New Delhi. Since then Parekh has held solo exhibitions, participated in a series of group shows and had been shown in curated exhibitions such as ‘The Pursuit of Intensity’. In 1992, the Government of India honored Parekh with the Padma Shri.

Text Reference:
Excerpts from the book Faith edited by Annapurna Garimella published by Art Alive Gallery in 2012


  • Birla Academy of Art and Culture Award, Calcutta, 1971 & 1991
  • All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society Award, 1972 & 1974
  • Silver Plaque of the President of India, 1972
  • National Art Award, Lalit Kala Academy, 1982
  • Padma Shri, Government of India, 1992


  • Manu Parekh Banaras: Eternity Watches Time
  • Banaras: Painting the Sacred City
  • Manu Parekh: 60 years of selected works
  • Faith: Manu Parekh in Benaras 1980-2012
  • Manu Parekh: The Dialogue Series

Top 10 Auction Records

Title Price Realized
Man Made Blinding USD 94,875
Banaras in Blue USD 88,000
Sunrise in Banaras USD 72,600
Banaras USD 72,600
Untitled USD 65,066
Untitled USD 51,750
Blue Banaras USD 51,008
He and She USD 49,000
Banaras Sunshine USD 47,983
Banaras at Dawn USD 46,269