Akbar Padamsee (born 12 April 1928) is a contemporary Indian artist and painter, considered one of the pioneers in Modern Indian painting along with Raza, Souza and M.F. Hussain. Over the years he has also worked with various mediums from oil painting, plastic emulsion, water colour, sculpture, printmaking, to computer graphics, and photography, as worked a film maker, sculptor, photographer, engraver, and lithographer. Today his paintings are among the most valued by modern Indian artists. His painting Reclining Nude was sold for USD 1,426,500 at Sotheby's in New York on 25 March 2011.
He was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship (Lalit Kala Ratna) by the Lalit Kala Akademi, India's National Academy of Arts, in 1962, the Kalidas Samman from the Madhya Pradesh Government in 1997 for Plastic Arts and the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honour in 2010.
Padamsee was born in Mumbai, India to a Muslim family with ancestry from Gujarat and grew up in Mumbai. His grandfather was the sarpanch of a Vāghnagar, a village in the Bhavnagar district of the Kathiawar, now part of Gujarat state. He earned the title "Padmashree" or "Padamsee" after he distributed his entire granary to the village during a famine. His original family name was "Charanyas", due to their ancestors being court poets. Early in life he started copying images from The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine in his father's accounts books at their store on Chakla Street, in South Mumbai.
He studied at St. Xavier's High School, Fort, and it was here that met his first mentor, his teacher Shirsat, a watercolourist. He first learned this medium, followed by classes on nudes at Charni Road in preparation for his studies at the Sir J.J. School of Art. As a result he was allowed to join the course directly in its third year. He was still studying fine art at the school, when the Progressive Artists' Group (PAG) was formed in 1947 by Francis Newton Souza, S. H. Raza, and M. F. Husain. The group was to have a lasting impact on Indian art. By the time he received his diploma he was already associated with the group.
In late 1950, Raza was awarded a French government scholarship, and he invited Padamsee to accompany him to Paris. Padmasee left for Paris in 1951, where artist Krishna Reddy introduced him to the surrealist Stanley Hayter, who became his next mentor. Padmasee soon joined his studio, "Atelier 17". His first exhibition was held in Paris in 1952. The artists exhibited anonymously, thus he shared the prize awarded by the French magazine Journal d'Arte with the painter Jean Carzou.
His very first solo show was held at the Jehangir Art Gallery in 1954, and soon he became one of leading artists. He received the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship in 1962, a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1965 and was subsequently invited to be an artist-in-residence by the University of Wisconsin–Stout. He returned to India in 1967.
As a member of many artistic committees, he took part in the development of the collections of the Bharat Bhawan museum of Bhopal, and created the VIEW (Vision Exchange Workshop). He curated major cultural events and received many distinctions such as the Padma Shri in 2009.
His work is introspective; his "Metascapes" or his "Mirror Images" are abstract images formed from the search for a formal logic. His topics include landscapes, nudes, heads and he has done portraits created in pencil and charcoal. The depth which emerges from his oil-based works, emanates from the coloured matter. This creates a pictorial technique juxtaposing emerging split forms.
He has done, in addition to his painted work, black and white photographs which use light to create dimension. Padamsee always explored new plastic genres; he also created "SYZYGY", "Events in a Cloud Chamber" films shot in 1970, and explored computers in "Compugraphics".
He lives in South Mumbai with his wife Bhanumati, and works at his studio in Prabhadevi. The couple have daughter who lives in Paris.