Manisha Patil, an artist and art historian

Artist Manisha Patil is a painter and art historian. She has completed her graduation in Painting from Nagpur University and postgraduate and Ph. D. in Art History from Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda. Manisha has taught at Govt. Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya, Nagpur and is at present Professor, Art History at Sir. J .J. School of Art, Mumbai.

The Suitable Girl, painting by Manisha Patil
The Suitable Girl, painting by Manisha Patil, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches

She has had several joint shows with Prabhakar Patil at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. Apart from her shows, she has participated in several charity shows as well as workshops.The artist’s paintings are in numerous public and private collections. As an academician and art historian, she has contributed essays in several art journals as well as delivered talks in seminars and workshops.

Manisha Patil is the new addition to Indiaart.

See Manisha Patil’s profile

See Manisha Patil’s paintings 

I have seen Manisha Patil’s paintings over the years. Looking at her paintings, the first thought that struck me was that she must have had a wonderful childhood. She carries pleasant and very detailed graphical memory of her growing up years. Each of her painting not only has members of her family in it but also several objects – some significant, some mundane, yet each object is an integral part of her growing up. I found the details fascinating and realised that she has a remarkable visual memory.

Playtime, painting by Manisha Patil, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches
Playtime, painting by Manisha Patil, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches

I am happy to present her paintings on Indiaart. On this occasion, I posed several questions to her and requested her to talk about her early years, education, career as an artist and art historian, and about her art practice. Here are her responses :

Early Years

My maiden name is Manisha Joshi. We lived in Calcutta, where my sister and I did our schooling. Calcutta has been crucial in shaping my artistic sensibilities, and consider myself lucky to have grown up in such an invigorating environment. No one in the family had an interest in visual art, though my father, an engineer, had excellent taste, and he was well read and traveled. My mother too, had been extremely supportive from day one.

It is true that I took to painting as a four year old, spending hours together with my pencils, brushes and colours. It so happened that I was good at studies too, but my parents never discouraged me at any point, never saying things like ‘ study first and then paint’
I recall going to exhibitions with my mother to the art galleries in Calcutta when I was barely 8 or 9. Calcutta has always been a hub of art and culture, we grew up on Ray’s films and Rabindra Sangeet, in addition to the various cultural activities in Maharashtra Mandal, particularly during Ganesh utsav.

Gentleman, painting by Manisha Patil, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches
Gentleman, painting by Manisha Patil, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches


I did not have a role model in the family. As I was so passionate about art, and attended my art classes earnestly in childhood , winning many state level prizes, I opted to pursue art in college. The academic education in Calcutta, though very good, was disrupted often those days in the late seventies owing to strikes, bandhs etc.

My obvious option was Sir. J.J. School of Art in Mumbai. Those days it was essential to clear the Intermediate grade exam to get into J.J. , and the state of West Bengal did not conduct this exam. . The college in Nagpur, Govt. Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya, came under the same umbrella of Maharashtra state as J. J. School of Art, and I was given provisional admission in Nagpur, with the condition to pass my Intermediate grade exam in the same academic year, which I did with a very good score.

Nagpur college also had a committed teaching faculty, and I completed my degree in Drawing and Painting.( B.F.A.) It was in Nagpur that I met my future husband, artist Prabhakar Patil, who was 4 years my senior in college. I went on to complete Master of Fine arts in Art History from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda , standing First class First, with Distinction. Both Prabhakar and I were appointed as Lecturers in Sir. J.J. School of Art in 1984.

Mumbai Years

Marine Drive, painting by Manisha Patil, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches
Marine Drive, painting by Manisha Patil, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches

The city of Mumbai was always bustling with activity in the art sphere. We would be visiting the Jehangir art gallery at least once every week to catch up with latest exhibitions, and also visited other galleries such as Pundole, Taj and Chemould. J.J. School of Art, those days, was quite different. There was an air of vitality and energy. There were many excellent teachers , many of them had their own art practice. I was into teaching theory- Art History. My husband Prabhakar begun to participate in shows and soon proved himself as a painter of promise.

Honestly, I started painting seriously as an artist only in early 90’s, at the time when we both were posted in the Nagpur art college due to a transfer. Being in a relatively smaller city like Nagpur proved to be a boon. Apart from devoting time to our daughter and son in their growing years, and completing my Ph.D from Baroda, I could devote a lot of time to painting. The 90’s was a decade which saw me exhibiting not just at Jehangir art gallery, Mumbai but both Prabhakar and I were invited by Art Today in New Delhi, a prestigious art gallery run by the renowned India Today group. A spate of exhibitions happened in quick succession. We were also exhibiting regularly in Mumbai out of Nagpur till we were transferred back to Mumbai at J.J.

On her art and influences

As I mentioned earlier, being away from Mumbai for a long time proved to be a blessing. It gave space to formulate my individual style. I have always drawn figures as far back as I can remember. Calcutta festivals such as Durga Puja and Rath mela, my school activities, excursions, my family members and more people. The works are very ‘people’ centric. I admire a great many Kolkata artists, Ganesh Pyne being a personal favourite. I owe the muted colour palette and layered tones, perhaps subconsciously, to him. Degas, Toulouse Lautrec and David Hockney are among my favourites. One cannot really pinpoint to a single influence- visiting museums in India and abroad have given me a perspective to appreciate artworks of different styles. I love Indian miniatures, particularly the Rajasthani school.

Never painted any political themes, but I certainly have an interest in social subjects, particularly gender issues. As a painter, in future, I would like to diversify to other subjects and paint literary themes as well. Both Prabhakar and I are keenly interested in Hindustani classical music, in addition to traveling. For the last many years, my art practice deals with painting my surroundings and experiences. Many of my works are autobiographical. Perhaps, not being so vocal as a person, I tend to convey my thoughts through my paintings.

Read other blog posts on artists :

H. C. Rai, painter of nature and mountains

S. D. (Shi Da) Phadnis, eminent cartoonist