The core concern in Ram Kumar’s work remains the pathetic human condition. A sense of alienation in crowded cities disturbs him as an artist. A visionary link seems to exist between his paintings and his stories. If his landscapes appear remote and alien, his stories are troubled, sad and brooding. Though hailing from a large middle-class family sans any creative environment, he and his brother developed interest in literature. In 1945, he happened to visit an art exhibition, and he almost immediately joined art classes.Below are many other important moments of this celebrated Modernist's life:
In his works, the colors – greys, yellow ochres, browns etc – tend to soak in their deft tonal subtleties, and his lingering lines pulsate at every point of its length. Thematically and Stylistically, his oeuvre grips your mind and heart.
- As his passion for painting grew, Ram Kumar decided to travel to France. Fortunately, he received the French Cultural Council scholarship (1949-52). It was a great learning experience for him to meet the likes of Octavio Paz, Jacaques Roubaut, Andre Lhote, and Fernand Leger.
- In his early works, the painter opted for an elegiac figuration, exuding the excruciating spirit of tragic Modernism. He also drew upon exemplars like Georges Rouault, Gustave Courbet, Edward Hopper, and Kathe Kollwitz. Infused with a great ideological fervor, he dedicated himself to constructing an iconography of victimhood and depression.
- The paintings imbued with a touch of melancholic Realism not only reflected his acute disillusionment with the anonymity and monotony of urban existence, but also alluded to the disillusionment with unfulfilled promises after India’s Independence. These compositions represented a major phase of the country’s post-Independence art.
- A series of solos of his wonderful work have been held in India and internationally over the last six decades. It has also been featured in several recent group exhibits. His retrospective exhibitions have been held at NGMA (1994) and Jehangir Art Gallery courtesy Vadehra, Delhi (1994); Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal (1986), and Birla Museum, Kolkata (1980).
- The veteran artist has won several honors and awards, such as Officers Arts et Letters, France (2003); Kalidas Samman, Madhya Pradesh government (1986); Padma Shri, Government of India (1972); J. D. Rockefeller III Fellowship, New York (1970), and the national awards (1956, 1958).