Allow popular narrative to succeed and it’ll tell you that all outsiders came to India in search of spices, natural resources, and treasures. Life in India, however, is not all that black and white. Apart from the many invaders who stepped onto Indian shores, several sensitive souls also came in search of or found inspiration here — for art.

Today’s technologically driven millennials may have embraced Google’s new Arts & Culture app to seek selfie-resembling art works, but India has been the muse of real artists since centuries and continues to be so.

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On the occasion of Inspire Your Heart with Art Day on Jan 31, we present 5 international artists, whose most significant works were inspired by India:

1. Tilly Kettle (1735-1786, England)

Humble origins and ends mark the life of Tilly Kettle. The son of a coach painter, Kettle grew up in London and studied drawing from the epoch’s intellectual powerhouse William Shipley before becoming one of England’s prominent portrait specialists.

Kettle’s tryst with India was in 1768, when he sailed with the East India Company. During 11 years of stay in India, he painted portraits of Indian royalty and energetic representations of Indian and Tibetan society such as Dancing Girl and a sati scene.

Returning to England didn’t work out well, financially, for the artist, who attempted an overland journey to India, but vanished somewhere on the way back.

2. Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947, Russia)

One of India’s most famous expats, Russian artist Nicholas Roerich is also known for his interests in archaeology, philosophy and theology, which could explain his surreal renditions of the Himalayan landscape that he most loved painting.

A dear friend of Pandit Nehru, Roerich travelled, lived, built a house and died in Naggar, Himachal Pradesh. Today, the Roerich Art Gallery in the village is a major draw for travellers, who just can’t get enough of the rich hues he employed in his sublime paintings.

3. Akino Fuku (1908-2001, Japan)

One of three most important female painters from Japan, Fuku’s interest in India occurred after she was invited in 1962 as a guest professor at Bengal’s Visva-Bharati University. Even at the age of 54, the country thrilled her with its sights and sounds.

Fuku went on to produce some of her most compelling work, employing Japanese painting techniques to rural Indian subjects, and successfully traversed the ridge between abstract and realism.

4. Waswo X Waswo (1953-present, USA)

A photographer mainly, Milwaukee-born Waswo’s art blends photography and hand-painting at his Udaipur studio to create a sepia-toned image of India that’s unlike any other you’ve seen.

His work India Poems is often hailed as post-colonial, romantic imagery, but one can’t deny that the artist also plays with the concepts of deception and illusion.

Creating wistful portraits of an India that shows no hints of modernity, Waswo’s work is a collaborative effort with Indian artists that will remain as timeless as Lala Deen Dayal’s early portrait work. Indian miniature work has also inspired the artist on some of his projects.

5. Edouard Baribeaud (1984-present, Germany)

Baribeaud was born to a French father and German mother; his work often straddles dual identities.

Employing classical gouache techniques on paper, his cinematic approach to drawing is usually completed as a series, which lends narrative and provides coherence. Inspired mainly by Indian miniature art, Baribeaud’s The Nocturnal Vault weaves in European Renaissance art to create a surreal hybrid of characters and scenes in imaginary dialogue with each other at night. Mind-bending and contemporary!

Image Credit: Waswo X Waswo