AP Santhanaraj A.P.Santhanaraj

One of the most defining aspects of AP Santhanaraj's works is the quality of his line. It is this fundamental element, which sets apart this artists stylistic norm. He uses this element spontaneously exploring it endlessly and creating unique visual compositions with it.

Born on March 13th 1932 in Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu, Andrew Peter Santhanaraj at the age of four was considered a child prodigy for his fondness for drawing. His powerful and influential mother often distracted him with illustrated alphabets indirectly kindling his interest to the world of visual perception. The young boy was already a rebel in his own right; he considered formal learning artificial and didn't want to join the local Danish Mission Schoolpreferring to pursue a life studying and exploring art. He had heard of the prestigious Madras College of Arts & Craft (then school), and at the age of 10 wanted to join it, but was promptly refused for being drastically underage. He had to wait another 6yrs (1948) for his dream to come true.

The artist completed his Bachelor of Art degree in 1953 with distinction and the gold medal. He then went on to do his Post Graduation (1953 - 55) with scholarship from the same institution. Here, two doyens of the era, Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury and K.C.S. Paniker shaped his artistic persona. Both believed in non-interference and freedom to the students in their exploration with techniques, materials and basic visual elements. An approach that was congenial to the budding artist, who firmly believed that originality of vision and newness of ideas, should be the very key to learning.

Those formative years at the college shaped his vision as an artist. It was here under Paniker's sway that he developed - the idea of an 'Indian identity' within the parameter of world art.

In 1958 at the behest of Paniker who then was the Principal of the Madras College of Arts & Craft, he was appointed as a Lecturer at his alma mater, in the painting dept. In 1985 he became the Principal and continued till 1990. As an art master, he was considered an exemplary mentor, a genius, a pioneer and a trendsetter. In that role he shaped the futures of many promising artists of Chennai like K M Adimoolam, R B Bhaskaran, C Douglas, R M Palaniappan, K. Muralidharan and others. His eccentric nature and emotional passion left a deep impression on them.

The artist played a dominant role in the growth and development of the 'Madras Art Movement'. He is considered by many in South India to be the most influential artist after K.C.S. Paniker and S. Dhanapal that came out of the Madras College of Arts and Craft.

Central to his work from the start was his love for the line; its' meandering through pictorial space. At some point in his interaction with Paniker he had said "a line is a line, it is universal". But later in his career when Panikers' Indian ethos had taken root within him, he qualified this statement to say ..."There was something Indian even in a line". This ethnic sensibility manifested in the primordial quality of his line drawings, giving birth to what could be termed 'the indigenous line'. Colour was secondary to the line; its use was mostly bright and outlandish.

A.P Santhanaraj's contribution to Indian modern art was immense. As an artist he was dedicated to his artistic research, passionate in exploring different mediums and materials. As a teacher he was enthusiastic about his students' progress and relentless in his effort to make a difference with his pioneering vision. He is considered as one of the pioneers and forerunners of the modern art movement in the country.


Studied at Danish Mission High School
1948 - Joined Govt. College of Arts and Crafts, Madras
1953 - Diploma in Fine Arts, Govt. College of Arts and Crafts, Madras
1953-55 - Post Graduation, Govt. College of Arts and Crafts, Madras
1956 - Woodstock School's Fine Arts Dept, Musoorie
1958 onward - Lecturer at the Govt. College Arts and Crafts
1975-77 - Professor, Kerala College of Fine Arts, Kerala.
1978-1985 - Principal, Kumbhakonam College of Arts & Crafts, Tamilnadu
1985-90-Principal of Govt. College of Arts and Crafts, Madras


Details of some important shows:
1958 First showcased in Kumar Art Gallery, New Delhi
1962 Commissioned to do a portrait for the Parliament of India
1966 'Three Indian Painters' The British Council, Madras.
1967 Common Wealth Art Festival, London.
1988 Commissioner for Brazil Triennale, organized by LK, New Delhi
1990 Retrospective, (Computer Maintenance Centre) CMC, New Delhi.
1996 & 2001- Solo, Kumar Art Gallery, New Delhi


National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi,
Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi and Chennai
State Museum, Chennai
State Museum, Kerala
Punjab Museum, Chandigarh
Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi
Govt Art gallery, Bangalore
Max Muller Bhavan, Chennai
South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur
Private collectors in India and abroad


1960 : Portraits of national leaders for permanent display at Parliament House, New Delhi, Murals for Govt. Museum, Chennai
1981 : Tamil Culture Monument for University of Tanjavur
Others : Sculpture, Sky Theatre, Birla Science Museum Complex, Chennai Sculpture for Bank of Madurai, Chennai, Sculpture for Salem Polytechnic & Sivakasi Polytechnic


Camps by Lalit Kala Akademies of New Delhi, Andhra Pradesh,Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu
Ovai Nunkalai Kuzhu, Chennai, South Zone Cultural Centre. Co-hosted by Max Muller Bhavan, Values Art Foundation, Cholamandal Artists Village, Chennai


1953 - Gold Medal, Govt. College of Art and Craft, Madras
1953 Received Indian Coffee Board Award
1954-56 - Received Govt. of India scholarship for his Post Graduation
1957, 62 - National Award, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
1958 - Gold Medal, Indian Fine Arts Society, Calcutta
1962 - Veteran Artist, AIFACS, New Delhi
1978 - Received Lalit Kala, State Award, Kerala
1982 - Ovia Nunkalai Kuzhu Award, Tamilnadu
1983 - Kalai Chammal Award, Tamil Nadu Art and Culture Dept.
1995 - Kalaimamani Award, Govt. of Tamil Nadu, Madras
1996 - Honoured by the All India Fine Arts & Craft Society -for outstanding contribution to art education
1997 - Kala Rathna, AIFACS, New Delhi

Text Compiled & Edited by Sayanti Mukherji

Ref: The Internet, Arts Chennai E-catalogue 'Reclaiming Tradition' by Dr. Ashrafi S. Bhagat, Artists Directory, Lalit Kala Akademi