Birth Centenary of K.K. Hebbar: A World Renowned Painter from Kattingeri

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By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Moodubelle, 15 June 2011: Kattingeri, a village which is an extension of Moodubelle has been made famous by the world renowned painter, Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar, popularly known as K.K. Hebbar whose birth centenary falls on June 15, 2011. By prefixing the name of his village of birth and early years, K.K. Hebbar carried forth the roots of Kattingeri where in his humble house he learnt the rudiments of painting which laid such a strong foundation that he remained true to humanism and folk culture which he had witnessed during the early years of his life in his village of birth, Kattingeri.


Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar


Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar was born on  June 15,  1911 at Kattingeri near Moodubelle in the Udupi district of Karnataka in a Tulu speaking Brahmin family. His father used to make clay idols of Lord Ganesha during festivals and his background in folk art helped Hebbar decide that he wanted to pursue art as a career.  As a young boy, he used to draw from memory with anything available like lamp soot and red pebbles ground in gum water, characters from the Yakshagana, the colourful open-air drama of South Kanara which had cast a spell on him.


The house in Kattingeri where KK Hebbar was born

About his early impression of the folk art of the village, Hebbar narrates in his own words: “As a child I was fascinated by folk plays of  my birth place Kattingeri, South Kanara, India: heroes and heroines, gods and demons playing about on the stage, demonstration of warriors’ bravery, exotic costumes and make-up, enchanting music. At home, rich with experiences, I would try to depict what I had seen upon the walls of my room with earth pigments. These drawings however crude, gave me satisfaction and a sense of emotional relief.”


As KK Hebbar was keen to pursue art, especially painting, at the age of 22 had initial training in Mysore and later went to Mumbai and began six years of professional training in arts in the prestigious Sir J.J. School of Art (1934-1938). His aim was to master draughtsmanship essentially to depict as accurately as possible his observations of the structure and organization of aspects of the visible world around him. He learnt geometric perspective, something about human anatomy and techniques of figurative drawing and painting. After the completion of the art course, KK Hebbar received his diploma in art in 1938. Soon after acquiring the diploma in art, KK Hebbar Joined Sir J.J. School of Art as art teacher and taught there till 1946.



KK Hebbar in later years

After completing the professional training in art, KK Hebbar struggled to take account of his own reaction to his social milieu. He also began to probe the analytical approach to the art of the past, assimilating what appealed to him the most. He tried to avoid slavish dependence on the traditional art of India and that of the foreign land. He always wanted to break away from the academic shackles and explore the meaning of creativity through the traditional art forms of India.  He studied the illustrations in Jain Manuscripts, Rajput and Mughal miniatures and the murals of Ajanta. Hebbar also took lessons in Kathak for about two year under the noted Pandit, Sunder Prasad, an experience which helped him to infuse rhythm into his drawings. In 1939, KK Hebbar came in contact with Amrita Sher-Gill and was quite influenced by the assimilation of western techniques and traditional Indian art in her paintings.



During a study tour of South India in 1946, Hebbar saw the green fields of Kerala and after his return to Mumbai he made a series of oil paintings out of the memories that he had of his visit to Kerala. During his early years that are known as his ‘Kerala years’, because he painted the landscapes of this state extensively, Hebbar was highly influenced by Paul Gaugin and Amrita Sher Gill. A large number of paintings that he created during this period, covering more or less a decade, starting from 1946, are considered extremely influential in Indian art history.


KK Hebbar visited Europe in 1949 in order to get exposure to some of the best works in western art and he finally settled down to study at the Academy Julian in Paris.


The definitive form began to take shape in Hebbar’s work after his return from Europe. Despite training in the Western tradition, Hebbar remained rooted to the folk tradition. The central theme of Hebbar’s art has always been ‘human being’. His concern with the human condition made him focus on themes like poverty, hunger and the destruction wrought by war and the nuclear explosion. At the same time he was acutely sensitive to music and dance and having learnt the dance form Kathak, he had produced many paintings in brilliant hues of dancers and performers. In his early works, this is reflected through the depictions of aspects of Indian life such as the local festivals and daily activities of the common man. In later works, this translates into his preoccupation with man’s scientific and technological advances, and the works often reflect his associated fears.  He will be best remembered for his eminently human paintings which draw from Indian colours and forms.




In the year 1964, Hebbar visited the remains of the Mayan civilization in Mexico where he saw the ruined remains of the temple of the Sun and the Moon. The sight inspired Hebbar to create a series of paintings based on the Mayan civilization.


Awards, accolades and honours came on the way of KK Hebbar which he received with great humility and a sense of satisfaction. An adroit draughtsman, his studies like Mahim Darga won him the National Award in 1956 to be followed by awards in annual exhibitions in 1957 and 1958. Hebbar had also received the Gold Medal of the Bombay Art Society in 1947. He was Chairman of the Lalit Kala Academy (1980-1984) and President of the Bombay Art Society in 1990. Recognising his contribution in the field of art, the Government of India awarded the Padamshri to Hebbar in 1961 and the Padma Bhushan in 1989. Some of the other important awards and honours conferred on KK Hebbar include: Gold Medal of the Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta (1941), First Bombay State Art Award (1956), Honorary D. Lit. from Mysore University (1976), Soviet Land Nehru Award (1983), Karnataka State Rajyotsava Award (1986), Maharashtra State`s Gaurav Puraskar (1988 and 1990).


KK Hebbar receiving award from Prabha Rau and Ram Niwas Mirdha

The art works and paintings of KK Hebbar had been exhibited at a number of centres both within India and abroad. . He was first exposed to an international audience in 1965 during the exhibition "Art Now in India", in London and Brussels. Some of the famous exhibitions of the paintings of Hebbar include: Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta (1941), Solo Exhibition in Mumbai (1945), Paris (1949 and 1951), London (1950), All India Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures, travelling to USSR, Poland and West Germany (1953), Participated in the Venice Biennale, Italy (1955), National Exhibition, Rabindra Bhavan, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (1956, 1957, 1958), Participated in the Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil (1959), Solo Exhibition in New York (USA) (1964), Exhibition, Bonythan Art Gallery, Australia(1969), Retrospective, Rabindra Bhavan, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi (1971), Indian Drawing Today, Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay (1987), Solo Exhibition, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi (1994), Exhibition, Fine Art Company, Bombay (1999), Manifestations, organised by Delhi Art Gallery, World Trade Center, Mumbai and Delhi Art Galleris (2003).


KK Hebbar always held that an artist’s role was to tell the truth about his feelings without any dilution. Due to his opposition to the politicization of art, he never joined any of the many artists groups such as the Progressive Artists’ Group. In spite of this he played an important part in the organization of artists in Bombay. He was closely associated with the Jahangir and Chemould art galleries in the city. In fact, it was chiefly due to the request of KK Hebbar and Homi Bhabha that Sir Cowasji Jahangir funded the Jahangir Art Gallery in Mumbai. Hebbar was also responsible for the founding of the Chemould Art Gallery.



Self Portrait by KK Hebbar

When KK Hebbar was elected as a fellow of the National Academy, he received a sizeable amount of money, which he used to encourage upcoming artists. He also designed a frame for paintings, now used extensively, and called the Hebbar profile.


After making a name in the Indian art world, acquiring a unique place in contemporary painting and placing India on the international painting map by exhibiting his acclaimed paintings in Asia, Europe and Americas and of course making Kattingeri from where he hailed a famous village, Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar passed away on 26th march 1996.



KK Hebbar’s posthumous exhibitions include ‘K. K. Hebbar – Paintings, Drawings, Publications’ organized by the K.K. Hebbar Art Foundation at the Jahangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 1997; ‘K. K. Hebbar – In Remembrance’ at the Fine Art Company, Mumbai, in 1999; and  ’Long Gone and Living Now’ at Gallerie Mirchandani  and  Steinreucke, Mumbai, in 2009.


Rajani Hebbar


Rajani Hebbar (Prasanna), daughter of KK Hebbar has been working hard to continue the painting traditions of her renowned father. She is a trustee of the KK hebbar Foundation and has been sponsoring various young artists. Having completed her masters in Ancient Art and Culture, Ms. Hebbar is somebody "who can recognise a tiny spark of talent,’’ and makes it a point to encourage the talent. Infact, Ms. Hebbar has also documented works of most young artists. "Being a part of any art field involves a tremendous amount of dedication and patience,’’ says Rajani Hebbar who has been teaching  art in the J.J. School of Art, Mumbai for the last 30 years. K.K. Hebbar Foundation, formed in 1991-92, has been encouraging art-related activities in Mumbai.



Comments on this Article
Victor D almeida, Moodubelle/Bahrain Thu, June-16-2011, 3:47
Painting Legend Late K.K. Hebbar made us proud and also our village Kattingeri because of his great paintings people knows about kattingeri and Hebbar family. K.K. Hebbar was a celebrated artist of India Known for his simplicity of sketches and brilliance of hues in his paintings. His depictions of common Indian motifs and rituals are imaginative for their abstraction. His artworks today are considered highly influential in Indian Art History. God Bless his soul.
Anthony D Almeida, Nashik/Udyavara/Moodubelle Wed, June-15-2011, 10:09
I had the privilege of meeting K K Hebbar in 1967 in Mumbai at Chemould Art Gallery where I worked for a short while. As a young boy, I used to visit my grandfather Babin D sa whose house in Kattingeri is the closest to Late Mr. Hebbar s house. It was a pleasure to read the achievements and pictures of some of his great paintings. Mr. K K Hebbar has surely put the little known Kattingeri a known name on the map of India.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Wed, June-15-2011, 7:35
I shared this article on FB for everyone to access..Thanks, Dr. Eugene!
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Wed, June-15-2011, 7:33
I mentioned legendary KK in my Facebook notes a fortnight ago and was wondering if Bellevision would come out with a feature on him. And here it is: i am pleasantly surprised and pleased. I came to know of him and his art, during my days at MGM College, Udupi. Later, on many occasions, I saw him at Jehangir Art Gallery at Exhibitions, and his image is etched in my mind till this day, as in Self Portrait 1980. Though I can t draw a straight line, but can appreciate art; to me, he is one of the greatest! There was one Prabhakar in Bantakal during my teen days, whom I thought could become like KK. Wonder what happened to him! Those days, we used to make mould jade into mango or other fruit shapes for our art teacher..:D
Akil Vijay DSouza, Moodubelle/Bangalore Wed, June-15-2011, 6:17
Really very nice paintings... K K Hebbar really made us proud...
Vasudeva Kini, Kattingeri Village, Moodubelle Main Road Wed, June-15-2011, 5:14
I am really glad and overwhelmed for the pains taken by Dr.Eugine to edit the sweet memories of last few decades into the recent news through Belle Vision for the information of upcoming young generation. Since I am from Kattingeri Village, I personally owe my gratitude and thanks for Dr. Eugine's courage to edit and also for the full coverage in Belle vision on the eve of birth centenary of Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar, a very well known figure. Well done ! Keep it up. I wish all the best to Prasanna Madam (his daughter) in her great efforts to continue the traditional paintings of her late father and encourage the art related talents with the children of Kattingeri also.
Bhaskar, Kattingeri Wed, June-15-2011, 3:46
K K Hebbar made us proud.
Ronald sabi, Moodubelle Tue, June-14-2011, 3:26
Thank you Dr. Eugene, tribute for such a wonderful, rarest of rare personality, I always heard off!! His native home is less than a Km to me!! My grand father knew him well as a jr in the school...and abrupt migration to the city in search of exploration of his dream. But this kind of information about my neighbor is hair rising!!! I still remember his line drawings in Indian Express 40 yrs back¦.my grade I II¦, Now I realize It's all about dream world coupled with truth and honesty brought to reality by rare people like KK Hebbar and few more handful people like Picaso, MFH,¦ world has ever produced!!
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