Prafulla Dahanukar (1934-2014) was a well-renowned eminent artist of India. She was an informal member of the Bombay Progressive Artists Group, though she could not become a formal member of the man’s group. Her studio in Bhulabhai Institute in Breach Candy was next to the studio of M.F. Husain. V.S. Gaitonde painted in her studio in the morning and would go for a movie in the afternoon when Prafulla painted. Gaitonde greatly influenced Prafulla’s work. He was quite fond of her and on one day, sketched her profile which is printed here for you to see. Husain was a close friend and kept in touch with her right upto his end. He celebrated his 90th birthday in Prafulla’s house in Mumbai. Husain opened her show Dubai in 2008. Prafulla was outspoken about her feelings that Husain should be welcomed back in India where he belonged. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, and Krishen Khanna cherished her friendship.
Prafulla was a gold-medal winning graduate of the Sir J J. School of Art and had her first solo show in 1956. One of the paintings from her show is printed in the PDAF show Catalogue is from the theme Raga-Ragini. You can see the influence of Gaitonde in this work. Although she periodically painted portraits and still-life, the main theme of paintings in later years was abstracted landscapes which she called ‘Mindscapes’ in the 1990s and ‘Eternal Space’ in the 2000s. From semi-realistic scapes in the 1980s, she progressively turned towards abstract. She created abstract form of Mahalaxmi; please read Prafulla’s Inspiration. She was a master of colours and painted these Mahalaxmi Mantra abstract paintings in a wide range of colours. Her works generally had one dominant colour with its subtle shades and nuances. Her paintings have a unique quality of evoking different reactions depending on the mood of the viewer. When in peaceful meditation her paintings look different than in hurried moment. Mrs. Judith Perry, a collector of her paintings says, “As the light changes during the day the painting reveals different moods and shapes; we see different visions of space and of the Bombay we love. Living with Prafulla’s ‘Eternal Space’ is deeply satisfying.”
Prafulla was on the panel for approving the artist for displaying his/her work at the Jehangir Art Gallery for 45 years! She saw more than 6000 works of art sent to the Jehangir Art Gallery every year from all parts of India. She was completely familiar with the new painters and their work. She went out of her way to help younger artists and many renowned artists of today from the South, North and East owe their initial push in Mumbai to her selfless and devoted efforts.
The Prafulla Dahanukar Art Foundation (PDAF) has been formed to continue her good work of helping young artists. The Foundation finds its benefactors in most of the top artists of India. It is a Foundation borne out artists for the artists. The PDAF is a dynamic organization working to perpetuate her memory.