Born in 1940, in Burnpur, West Bengal, (then Bengal) Anjolie Ela Menon is a celebrated Indian painter and muralist. She is well known for her religious themed works, portraits, and nudes. She pursued her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, from University of Delhi and later received a scholarship from the French Government to study at École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (1959-1961).
Her early paintings that mostly comprised of portraits display influences of well known artists such as Van Gogh, M. F. Husain, Amrita Sher-Gil and Modigliani. By the age of fifteen, she had already sold a couple of her paintings.
Initially Anjolie studied art at J. J School of Art, but on finding it stifling, she dropped out and went to Europe on a scholarship by the French Government. The European art world introduced her to the medieval Christian artists. While studying at École Nationale des Beaux Art, Paris, Anjolie started working with translucent colours and muted palette. Using hardboard as her canvas, she engaged in soft dry brush technique. While focusing on her female nude subjects, Anjolie started painting unique characteristics of Christian art especially the frontal perspective, the slightly elongated bodies and the turned heads. This resulted into an exuberant relationship between eroticism and melancholy.
In her artistic career of over 60 years, Anjolie has worked in numerous mediums, including acrylics, fibreglass and even Murano glass sculptures. However, she finds most joy in painting multiple thin layers of oil on Masonite board. She further polishes the ethereal textured surfaces by painting numerous soft dry brush on the hardboard, giving her works a touch of radiance.
Owing to her long career and a large body of work, it is mystifying to compartmentalise Anjolie’s works. She believes that dissatisfaction is the source of development and that artists should desert known and acclaimed ground to find and explore the unexplored territory. Similarly, she discourages reading symbols and motifs in her paintings. She believes, that threads, jewellery, kites, animals, embroidery, ornaments, are just that, ornaments and embellishments, especially in her feminine subjects.
Anjolie has exhibited her works in numerous group and solo shows. ‘Menongitis-Three Generations of Art’ at Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi, in 2008, ‘Gods and Others’ conducted by Apparao Galleries at Admit One Gallery, New York, in 2000 are some of her most recent shows. Times of India organised a retrospective of her works at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 1998 and another retrospective exhibition under the title ‘Four Decades’ was organised on 2002, in Mumbai and Bengaluru. In 2006, her large triptych titled ‘Yatra’ was showcased at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. She has also displayed her works in different group exhibitions such as ‘Kalpana: Fogiratove Art in India’ presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, (ICCR) at Aicon Gallery, London, 2009, Mapping Memories -2, Painted Travelogues of Bali and Burma at Gallery Threshold, New Delhi in 2008 and ‘Kitsch Kitsch Hota Hai’ at the India Habitat Center, New Delhi in 2001.
Anjolie has received one of the highest civilian honours by the Government of India, the Padma Shri, in 2000. Her works are parts of numerous private and corporate collections, in India and abroad. Many major museums across the globe have acquired her works. Anjolie has represented India at the Algiers Biennale and in Sao Paulo, Brazil.