Born: 16 March 1936
Died: 6 December 1995

Prabhakar Barwe - Artworks


Known as a symbolic abstractionist, Prabhakar Barwe's paintings seemingly came from the unconscious. The junction of form and space in his work creates new associations and meaning while giving the observer a chance to perceive the image subjectively. Influenced by the esoteric tradition of Tantric painting, Barwe is considered as part of the Neo-Tantra movement.

Prabhakar Barwe was born on 1936 in Maharashtra to a family closely related to art. In order to carry out the family tradition, he studied at Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai and received his diploma in 1959. As he was starting out, he was deeply inspired by Paul Klee, a Swiss-German artist. It was reflected in his early watercolors and works with floating motifs on a transparent surface done in a mostly symbolic mode. After his graduation, he experimented on the canvas by placing every kind of material that could be held unto it in an attempt to search for his individual identity as a painter.

From 1961 to 1965, Barwe stayed and worked in Varanasi, during which, he got the opportunity to work in the Weavers Service Centre developing modern Indian textile design. Here he came across the tantric symbolism that set the tantric-oriented abstract format of his life's work. He also made use of the conceptual devices of surrealism by placing simple objects and ephemeral shapes in his representations. With the introduction of the Pop Art Movement, banal everyday objects was made into fine arts and Barwe applied this showing great skills in creating intimacy between these objects and life. He later began reading horoscopes that eventually turned into a hobby. The pieces of writing containing astrologer's calculations and predictions eventually found place on Barwe's canvas.

Despite belonging in the twentieth century, an era preoccupied with modernism and materialistic tendencies, he tried to give emotional touch to the impassive surrounding and developed a metaphysical dimension in his art. His work present ordinary objects having emotional and mystical associations, vibrating with poetic sensibility. Literal and conventional definitions were lost in his canvas, his paintings are subjective rather than objective.

Apprehensive of losing his creative freedom, Barwe restricted himself to two dimensional and graphic possibilities; always guarding his individuality and freedom as an artist. He rejected both the British

academic tradition in Indian figurative art and the Indian miniature form to evolve a universal, abstract visual language that explored inward spaces and transient realities. His phallic forms of the 1970s, isolated heads of the 1980s, and the dead pendulum clocks and abandoned staircases of the 1990s, were always structured around central themes.

He became a well exhibited painter in India and outside, accolades followed including the National Award from Lalit Kala Akademi in 1976 and the Yomiuri Shimbun Award from Japan in 1969. He was as accomplished in written words as well, his book 'Kora Canvas' completed a few years before his death, contained much of his jottings on the creative process and his musings about life.

Barwe held several solo exhibitions including one at Wisconsin, U.S., in 1963. He also participated in 'Indian Painters', Zurich, 1970; Grey Art Gallery, New York, 1975; International Biennale, Menton, France, 1976; 'Modern Indian Painting' Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, 1983; 'Six Indian Painters, Washington & Istanbul, 1983 & 1985 and International Biennale, Chile in 1989.

Barwe lived and work in Mumbai. He died prematurely in 1996.

Text Reference:
Indian Contemporary Art: Post Independence published by Arun Vadehra, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 1997, page 90. &


  • Residency Fellowship Grant at Yaddo, New York, 1983-85
  • National Award, Lalit Kala Award, New Delhi, 1976
  • Maharashtra State Award, 1971
  • Yomiuri Shimbun Award, Tokyo, 1969
  • Award, Annual Exhibition, Bombay Art Society, Mumbai, 1968
  • Award, Annual Exhibition, Bombay Art Society, Mumbai, 1964
  • Award, Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata, 1963
  • Yomiuri Shimbun Award, Tokyo, 1961-65


  • The Blank Canvas: Prabhakar Barwe, Bodhana Arts and Research Foundation, India, 1992
  • कोरा कैनवस: Kora Canvas, Prabhakar Barwe, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 2016

Top 10 Auction Records

Title Price Realized
Existence GBP 60,000
Eighty-Five Safety Pins GBP 56,250
Existence USD 73,000
Talking Shadows USD 72,000
Solitary Reaper - Carrom USD 69,600
Untitled USD 67,133
Circular Oneness GBP 47,500
The Easel USD 61,000
Ethereal Transition USD 60,000
Untitled USD 57,000