"Bhupen Khakhar (also spelled Bhupen Khakkar, Bombay 10 March 1934 – Baroda 8 August 2003) was a leading artist in Indian contemporary art. He worked in Baroda, and gained international recognition for his work.
Khakhar was a self-trained artist, and started his career as a painter relatively late in his life. His works were figurative in nature, concerned with the human body and its identity. A self-professed homosexual the problem of gender definitions and gender identity were major themes of his work. His paintings often contained learned references to Indian mythology and mythological themes.
Khakhar's oil paintings were often narrative and autobiographical. His first exhibited works presented deities cut from popular prints, glued onto mirrors, supplemented by graffiti and gestural marks. He began to mount solo exhibitions as early as 1965. Though the artist had been largely self-taught, his work soon garnered attention and critical praise. By the 1980s Khakhar was enjoying solo shows in places as far away as London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Tokyo.
The artist's work celebrated the day to day struggles of India's common man. Khakhar's early paintings depicted average people, such as the barber, the watch repairman, and even an assistant accountant with whom he worked. The painter took special care to reproduce the environments of small Indian shops in these paintings, and revealed a talent for seeing the intriguing within the mundane. His work has been compared to that of David Hockney. Though he was influenced by the British Pop movement, Khakhar understood that western versions of Pop Art would not have the same resonance in India.
Khakhar's often openly homosexual themes attracted special notice. Homosexuality was something that at the time was rarely addressed in India. The artist explored his own homosexuality in extremely personal ways, touching upon both its cultural implications and its amorous and erotic manifestations. Khakhar painted homosexual love, life, and encounters from a distinctively Indian perspective.
In the 1990s Khakhar began experimenting more with watercolours and grew increasingly confident in both expression and technique. He found himself portrayed as "the accountant" in Salman Rushdie's novel The Moor's Last Sigh. Khakhar returned the favour by later making a portrait of the author that he called The Moor, and which is now housed within the National Portrait Gallery, London. In You Can't Please All (1981; London, Knoedler's) a life-size naked figure, a self-portrait, watches from a balcony, as father, son and donkey enact an ancient fable, winding through the townscape in continuous narration."