Following a trip to the bustling pilgrimage city of Varanasi in 1960, Kumar began to paint abstracted cityscapes, rendering their contours in thick impasto. In Kashmir, one of his most celebrated works, he reduces the city to an abstract map in which buildings are huddled together in a vibrant unit. Kumar’s expressionistic landscapes such as this one echo Cubist paintings by Fernand Léger, with whom he worked in Paris.
Born in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, Kumar achieved renown as both a writer and an artist, but today he is primarily known for his visual art. He was associated with the Delhi Silpi Chakra (Delhi Sculptors’ Circle) and the Progressive Artists Group (PAG). Unlike the PAG, the Silpi Chakra had a more political slant and sought to bring modernism to a broader public audience. As reflected in Kumar’s alliance with both groups, his art engages with social issues as well as art for art’s sake.