Modernist painter and printmaker known for her documentations of her travels, Devayani Krishna depicted the social, cultural and religious practices of the places she visited through her conceptual and symbolic paintings and prints.
Born in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Krishna spent her early years learning art from DD Devlalikar in Indore. Later, she pursued a diploma in painting (1936–40) and a post-graduation in mural painting (1940–41) from the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai. In 1942, she married artist Kanwal Krishna, with whom she travelled across Afghanistan, the Khyber Pass, Swat Valley and Chitral, documenting the traditions of the region on invitation from the governor of the North-West Frontier Province. In 1968, she was selected for a cultural exchange programme by the Government of India to travel to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Norway and Sweden. In 1953, Krishna joined the Modern School, Delhi, as an art teacher, and became head of the department — a role she held till 1977.
An avid traveller, Krishna painted scenes from the places she visited using traditional folk motifs, batik printing, ceramics and toy-making practices. From 1949–52, Krishna painted Tibetan masks and ritualistic performances. She often incorporated sacred symbols in her work with the aim of exploring themes such as conflict, religion and family. Her Allah Series (1960–) is a set of etchings with the name of Allah written in Arabic calligraphy. Krishna’s prints were often marked by light colours and symbols, most notably in her Maa series (1976), which invoked the figure of the goddess. She was one of the founding members of the Delhi Silpi Chakra and set up the first printing press in Delhi in 1955 with her husband, where they started multicolour printing.
Her works have been shown in various exhibitions in India and abroad, including at the All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society, New Delhi (1947); Kumar Gallery, New Delhi (1956); the Graphic Triennale, Germany (1972); the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi (2015); Mumbai Art Room (2019); Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi (2021); and the Delhi Art Gallery (2021). Her works are held in the collections of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi; the Sahitya Kala Parishad, New Delhi; Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; and the Delhi Art Gallery. The Kanwal and Devayani Krishna Foundation was set up by their daughter, photographer Chitrangada Sharma, with the aim of promoting art and photography.
Krishna died in 2000.
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