Bhupen Khakhar was born on 10 March 1934 in Bombay. His mother’s family was involved in dyeing clothes. Father had a small clothes shop in Bhuleshwar, Bombay. When Bhupen was four years old, his father died.
Bhupen’s elder sister was married. His in-laws helped Bhupen’s family financially by giving them work in their factory. Bhupen’s childhood was spent in adverse economic circumstances. Mother loved him very much.
Despite adverse circumstances, Bhupen’s education continued. At the time of passing Intermediate in 1953, Bhupen used to paint in water colors and sometimes would also go to paint here and there scenes.
Later he studied graphic methods in the evening classes of J.J. School of Art and exhibited his graphic paintings. He also received some awards for this, which encouraged Bhupen a lot.
After passing BA in Economics, took admission in JJ School. In B.A he passed in third division but in B.Com he got the highest position in the entire university. This gave Bhupen a lot of spiritual strength.
In 1958, Bhupen became friends with Pradyumna Tana who worked in Bengal style.
He did not like modern art. But apart from him, Bhupen was also an admirer of Raja, Padamsee and Samanta. In 1960, Bhupen was greatly influenced by Ramkumar’s visual paintings which were published in the “Illustrated Weekly of India”.
He also met Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh who asked Bhupen to go to Baroda but due to family reasons this was not possible.
In 1961, Bhupen got a job in a firm of chartered accountants but in 1962 he left it and took admission in the Arts Department of the University of Baroda. There he passed a two-year course in art criticism.
In 1963, Bhupen met an English pop painter who had come to Baroda, named Jim Donavan. Under the influence of Jim, Bhupen left the French art traditions prevalent in India and started painting pictures of public life in a simple style.
Bhupen started making collages from statues sold in the market, printed images of deities and calendars. In a single year he also amassed a good collection of marketable paintings.
In his artworks, Bhupen has made extensive use of postcards, charts, calendars, miniature paintings, cinema settings and pictures hanging in tea shops etc.
From 1965, Bhupen started exhibiting his works, he was praised in the country and abroad and he also got good customers. In 1976 he was also requested to teach at the Bath Academy.
He first depicted incidents of daily life in his paintings, then started depicting the life of the lower middle class. After this, he started depicting that section of the society which was never depicted.
In his paintings made after 1968, the same colors have been used which are used by Indian people in their costumes or on the walls of buildings etc.
Khakhar has used popular printed pictures and calendars in his art, which no artist has done before. Among these, pictures of popular gods and goddesses are prominent.
They are printed in these. Shapes are cut out and pasted around a main motif on the canvas. The color of red enamel gives uniform color to the background.
At some places, this color also flows onto some part of the pasted picture. This helps the picture to become a part of the whole composition. They stick the shapes in such a way that they create a new deformity and a new surprising effect.
They have started pasting pieces of mirrors in these and also writing beautiful script. The most impressive among these paintings of Khakhar are the compositions based on Shrinathji.
In these, they stick a big figure in the center of the picture and many small figures around it. Sometimes they also paste the type of eyes which are placed in the idol of Shrinathji.
On the empty spaces they write Ram-Ram etc. in small and big sizes. The trend of writing letters etc. without drawing shapes or relating different shapes to each other is similar to the anti-shape “Dadaist” movement going on in Paris.
The society and color schemes of the paintings painted by Khakhar have become quite popular. He always presents these subjects in a new way. In simple combinations, he depicts the ordinary or average life of Indian rural people in which both the tragedy and beauty of that life are contained.
Looking at Bhupen’s paintings it seems that there has been stability in his destiny; She is not going to change now. In his paintings, some details of the near objects as well as the distant objects are depicted as if they are the nearest ones.
Through this device in his paintings, he creates a relationship between distant and nearby objects, which indicates some satire or irony.
In one of his new paintings, “You Can’t Keep Everyone Happy”, the main character is depicted with his back turned naked to the viewer and looking towards two men standing with a donkey.
By doing this the painter has pointed towards the conspiratorial activities being carried out by foolish people. Bhupen Khakhar is also fond of literature and is also a popular Gujarati kanyakar.
Bhupen is also called a modern Indian pop artist. Apart from many cities of India, he has had many exhibitions in Brazil, Russia, Yugoslavia, England, etc. He also takes out some time for his old business (Chartered Accountancy).