July 2, 2009 / 2:20 PM / 11 years ago

Artist Tyeb Mehta dies after long illness

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - Artist Tyeb Mehta, who held the record for the highest price for an Indian painting in a public auction, died after a heart attack on Wednesday, his family said.

Mehta, who had been ailing for some time, was born in Gujarat in 1925, and spent his early years as a film editor before going to art school in Mumbai.

He was closely associated with the Progressive Artists Group, formed by Francis Newton Souza, S.H. Raza and M.F. Husain, that pushed the envelope on modern Indian art.

Mehta, who lived in London for several years in the early 1960s, is best known for the use of the diagonal in his works and modern interpretations of mythological figures.

The reclusive Mehta enjoyed commercial success — his ‘Celebration’ sold for 15 million rupees ($312,500) at a Christie’s auction in 2002, the highest sum for an Indian painting at an international auction.

Three years later, Mehta’s ‘Gesture’ went for more than double that price at the Osian’s auction in India.

“He belonged to the old school of artists who remained true to their inner voice,” said Neville Tuli, chairman of Osian’s.

“Yet the recognition of his art in the commercial world led to a wider acceptance of Indian modern and contemporary art.”

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