Get acquainted with the oil paintings and posters made by Polish artist Stefan Norblin, whose images offer snapshots of life spanning three continents, depicting Poland's pre-World War II elite, his sojourn to India in the 1940s and his trip to the USA

Polish artist Stefan Norblin (1892-1952) was a globe-trotter of sorts. Despite limited modes of transportation and the long duration of journeys during the early half of the 20th century, he left his native land, Warsaw, frequently to travel to far-flung places such as India, USA and Iraq.

A portrait of an Indian woman during the 1940s

Along the way, he painted portraits of people he met including King Faisal II of Baghdad and took on commissions from royal families. In India, he was involved in designing the art deco interiors and murals for the Umaid Bhavan Palace of Jodhpur.

Around 60 of his restored artworks, including portraits, art deco posters, book covers, illustrations and designs for theatrical costumes are currently on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA).

A portrait of General Douglas MacArthur, a depiction of rural life in India

The exhibition, titled Stefan Norblin: A Master of Many Arts, is the result of a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and the Ministry of Culture and Natural Heritage, Poland.

When east meets west
"The highlight of this exhibition lies in the fact that foreign artists such as Norblin made India their home at a time when the boundaries of the world were changing and India was under colonial rule.

Norblin's artwork is unique because it intertwined his own artistic sensibilities with elements of Indian art to form a multi-layered representation of the world in those times," said Professor Rajeev Lochan, Director of NGMA.

Norblin's artworks reflect his versatility and interests. While some images focus on the whims of Poland's pre-World War II elite and the opulence of their homes, other images depict the plight of the common man and the elderly.

His visit to India between 1941 and 1946 led to a series of paintings depicting the beauty of tribal women and the idyllic life, characteristic of rural India.

A royal touch
He also spent a considerable amount of time working on the Umaid Bhavan Palace conceptualising 25 art deco paintings, murals and furniture for it.
During this period, he assimilated cultural elements from Indian art to develop a new style of art, which was inspired by Hindu mythology. Europe met Asia on a cultural platform through his paintings.

Coming full circle
The palace project led to much acclaim and Norblin started receiving a lot of orders. He subsequently held a solo exhibition in Mumbai in 1944 at the Sir Cowasji Jehangir Hall, which is now known as the NGMA.

He left India in 1946 and went to San Francisco where he painted portraits of several Americans, including General Douglas MacArthur and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Sadly, after he lost his eyesight in 1952, he committed suicide.

Till January 8, 11 am to 6 pm
At National Gallery of Modern Art, Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall, MG Road, Fort.
Call 22881970 / 22852457