Born: 1935

Sakti Burman - Paintings


A contemporary Indian artist - painter, sculptor and lithographer, Sakti Burman fills his art with mythic and fantasy content and rich colors. He was born in 1935 inKolkata, India to Umatara and Adinath Burman. His childhood and younger days are filled with love but was lived through acute loneliness, when affection and family members could not make up for the death of his mother. Umatara passed away when Sakti was just three or four years old, succumbed to kidney failure, she left Sakti tarnished forever. Sakti, along with who was left in the family, moved to Dibrugarh in 1943 where his father shifted the garments and leather trade and where Sakti and his brothers went to school. Here, he had his second major visual experience when a foreigner showed him a small landscape he wanted framed. The first was the painted backdrops of the stage productions the extended family participated in Vidyakut. Though he was a model child and student in school, doodles filled his notebooks in school. The year 1943 was a decade with its historic turmoil but had played a vital role in the artist’s life. His family with all its happy memories and the large land holdings his father had invested his business profits in, was lost to them forever. All he was left was his father, three brothers, and his love for art. Burman expressed his interest to study art to his father, but Adinath, a patron of culture as he was demanded to know how it would serve the family Partition had hurt. Sakti’s brothers took up for him as they had often done before and persuaded their father that he be allowed to study art in Kolkata.

Sakti Burman - Artist

In 1951, Sakti joined a five-year course in fine arts at the Government School of Art (now Government College of Art & Craft) in Kolkata. He enjoyed the liberal atmosphere of the institution and made friends with many of those who went on to make a name in the art scene. Kolkata was for Sakti, just a starting point. Inspired by Van Gogh and the leading artists of Europe, Sakti wanted to dedicate his life to art the way they had done. He said, “If I really wanted to make art my career, what I had learnt so far was not enough." With his talent, hard work and ambition, he got admitted at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris. In 1956. Again persuaded by his three brothers, Adinath relented.

As to where Sakti gets the images in his paintings came from, Sakti reveals in his stories. Once he was painting his son Nobu on to a canvas alongside other remembered figures, with a conch shell upon his son’s head. The conch shell that stirs the memory of childhood in the cultural moorings of Bengal. For several years, it kept appearing in his paintings, balanced almost always on Nobu’s head. The sitar, which sound his father loved, was played by Sakti for the Customs in Madras, perhaps when he was lonely and perhaps to earn himself some money. This caused him much embarrassment at Madras Customs but had been a source of revenue during his student years in Paris. Sakti had initially come to Paris for three years but had stayed long beyond that and the Piccadilly Gallery commission had given him some money - not enough to make him affluent but sufficient to make him comfortable. He decided to go back to Kolkata and stayed there for a year. He travelled alone and leaving his girlfriend Maite Delteil in consideration of the traditional society where he came from, where the thought of an unmarried girl accompanying him would put them both in a bad situation. He had an exhibition in the city where nothing sold and another at the All India Fine Arts and Craft Society gallery in New Delhi where two of his paintings found their buyers. His father was disappointed in him and was worried how Sakti was going to make a living. Back in France, galleries were still selling his work and there is still a demand from Piccadilly Gallery in London. Once again, he came back, this time with the intent of marrying Maité though he still has to convince the ‘bourgeois family’ she belongs to of his intentions. They married in France in 1963. A decade later, Sakti seem to have found his luck, an American couple - the Ferants - came across his work and wanted to turn them into graphic prints and sell as editions. The works sold very well and they wanted more watercolours. And now they wanted to turn it into lithographs. Sakti regards lithograph particularly important as he found himself in the august company of the artists he admired - Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Georges Barque, Marc Chagall.

He won the Prix des Etrangers award in 1956. Some of the most recent solo shows of his work include a retrospective at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, Mumbai, Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, and Dakshina Chitra, Chennai, in 2011 and 2012; Mumbai, in 2,009, 2011, 2006, 2001, 1990, 1988, 1977, 1970 and 1967; London and New York, in 2009; Art Musings, and Maison de I’Unesco, in 2008. Burman’s works have also been featured at an exhibitions in Los Angeles in 2001 and in New York in 2002; at the Rand Palais, Paris, in 1975 and 1994; and at the French Biennales in 1963, 1965 and 1967. The artist lives and works in Paris.

Text Reference:
Excerpt from the book Sakti Burman: The Wonder of it All published by Pundole Art Gallery & Apparao Galleries in 2012.


  • Prix des Estrangers, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1956
  • Knight of the Legion of Honour, Government of France, 2016
  • Medaille d’Argent au Salon de Montmorency


  • Sakti Burman by M. Ramachandran
  • Sakti Burman by M. Ramachandran
  • Sakti Burman “Recent Work"
  • Sakti Burman “Now and Then"
  • Sakti Burman “Enraptured Gaze"
  • Sakti Burman “60s-80s"
  • Sakti Burman “Dreamer of the Ark"
  • Sakti Burman by Arun Ghose

Top 10 Auction Records

Title Price Realized
Giraf in Liberty USD 120,000
Village Enchante GBP 86,400
Wondering on the Summer Evening USD 84,000
Matthieu playing USD 82,500
Apres Le Spectacle USD 78,500
Donna Con Spechhio USD 67,000
Untitled GBP57,600
Untitled USD 60,000
Untitled USD59,016
Mon Cirque de Reve USD 55,000
Song of the Late Evening USD 54,000