Badri Narayan (1929–2013) was born at Secunderabad in South India. A prolific artist, illustrator and
storyteller, his oeuvre are saturated with rich literary content deeply rooted in higher register of writings
reflecting his introspective nature and personal critical representation.
Without any formal training in art, Narayan worked as a successful art teacher for years before taking on
painting full time. He followed his own instinct, experimented with diverse media, forms and platforms yet
the core of his work remains on the metaphoric weight of literature that served as the basis of his visual
representation. Symbolism is a prominent feature of his oeuvre and at times he inserts popular icons from
Indian culture and tradition. Born a natural storyteller, he picks up imagery and influences from his
surroundings, this become an integral part of his creative journey. Self-reflection and autobiographical
perspective were constant theme in his work.
He is known to paint Hindu Gods and drew inspiration from biblical scenes with compositions which are
stark, stone cut and almost apocalyptic. His imagery that draws on Indian mythology incorporates influence
of miniature traditions giving his work intimate and accessible appeal. With an autobiographical perspective,
the recurring feature of his work are popular Indian culture icons such as Ganesh. His representation are
marked for their simplicity and minimal stylization. Narayan also creates paintings that are profoundly sober,
such as his works characterized by the protagonist lying in a bed seemingly ill or close to death, rendered in
what appears to be a dream state. The subdued palettes he employed enhanced the tranquility and stillness of
these works suggesting contemplation and a calm moment of reflection. A believer in two-dimensionality, his
paintings are intimate and done in a small format, often with an element of fantasy. Outwardly, the paintings,
simple in subject matter, reveal their intricacies to the viewer.
On the course of his career, the painter in some way moved to other lighter genre as seen in soothing dream
state housescapes he produced; sweet and exceptionally honed in colour and tone almost appearing like stage
backdrop. Although he worked primarily with ink, pastels and watercolours; he also painted on tiles and
ceramics and did etchings and woodcuts with most of his compositions focus on imagery inspired by the
Jataka tales and the world around him. Narayan also succeeded in creating still life watercolors expressing
his very personal sense of beauty and aesthetics. His works are models of textural perfection; from the earlier
stylized housescapes to a still more marmoreal purity of his work such as "Flowervase, Mountain and Boat"
and "Tree, House, Boat".
From 1951, his writings on art, folklore, mythology, short stories, verse, and tales for children have appeared
widely in the press locally and internationally. His literary work has also been included in two anthologies,
'Call It A Day' edited by M.C.Gabriel, Delffi; and 'Read Me A Story', Asian Cultural Centre for
UNESCO, Tokyo, 1991. He conducted art workshops, narrated stories to groups of children in schools,
remand homes, and in institutions for juvenile delinquents and the handicapped young. He has done the art
work and words for 'Tested Berries', a short film, (Films Division, Government of India, 1973). In 1975, a
short TV. film on his work, 'Call It A Day', music by Vijay Raghav Rao, was produced by Mumbal
His first public exhibition was in 1949, followed by a solo show in 1954. His work has been exhibited in over
50 solo and many more group exhibitions in various Indian metros and overseas including Biennales at Paris
and Tokyo.He has also received numerous awards, including the Padma Shri in 1987 and the Maharashtra
Gourav Puruskar in 1990.
Narayan passed away in 2013 in Bangalore.
Faces of Indian Art Through the Lens of Nemai Ghosh, Edited by Ina Puri, Art Alive Gallery, India, 2007,