Remembering Angela Trindade, one of the first Indian women to attend art school

Aug/25/2022 / by Pratika Yashaswi

*We would not be where we are today if not for the women that came before us. This article is part of a series where we remember pioneering women from South Asian history and the contributions they made to the world.*  

In the 1930s, Indian art was an out-and-out man’s world. Very few women were encouraged to paint or even to enter art school. One of the very first to do so was Angela Trindade, a pioneering student of Sir J.J. School of Art in colonial Bombay.
Many introductions to the artist still refer to her as the daughter of an eminent painter, Antonio Xavier Trindade (who is referred to as the Rembrandt of the East); but her work and her achievements hold their own place in Indian Art. She was the first Indian woman to receive a fellowship at the Sir J.J. School of Art in colonial Bombay and regularly exhibited her work around the world. Her highest honor came to her from Pope Pius XII who awarded her the *Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice*, in recognition of her contributions to religious art.

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Trindade is best known for her depictions of Christian subjects. Painting at a time when the colonial stronghold was weakening in India, her work “Indianizes” the representation of biblical figures and themes. For instance, you will see Mother Mary with a recognizably Indian face in a sari, holding a lotus instead of the symbolic lily. In some of her paintings, Baby Jesus wears a dhoti. This style came, she said, as “the result of an urge to represent Christ and His Mother to my people in India in a style that is common to all”. Her work made a statement that resonated with her audience and traveled across the world, breaking new ground.

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Trindade is a true pioneer also in the sense that she invented her own signature style, named Trindadism. According to author Fátima da Silva Gracias, “In the late 1950s, she evolved a style of her own as she used the Trinity (or triangle) 
in her painting to symbolize the brotherhood of man.”

Trindade’s oeuvre went further as she experimented with both abstract expressionism as well as cubism, which were rising in popularity at the time. She was a keen experimenter, and one of the first from India to experiment in Tantric art.

Trindade’s work is an example of an ever-evolving, ever-reinventing talent. Indian Christian art still reverberates with her contributions.