Raghav Kaneria (b. 1936) is an artist, sculptor, experimentalist and photographer based in Vadodara, Gujarat. His body of work ranges from sculpture, drawing, and murals to serigraphy and photography.

Born in Anida, Gujarat, he studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, under the tutelage of Prof Sankho Choudhury and Prof. K. G. Subramanyan from 1955 to 1961. It was during this time that he met artist and photographer Jyoti Bhatt of the Baroda Group, which strengthened his interest in drawing and photography. [1] This was a time when several artists at Baroda, inspired by artist and lecturer K.G Subramanyan, were turning their focus towards reclaiming folk art and traditions of India, particularly with the purpose of viewer engagement. Owing to this, one notices an engagement with folk art and sacred geographies as an enduring feature of Kaneria's work as both a photographer and sculptor. His earliest influence, however, came from his mother’s detailed drawings for her embroidery work. [2] The memories of his childhood in a village in Gujarat, along with the academic environment at Baroda, came together to shape Kaneria’s practice, which is thoroughly rooted in the everyday art practices and rituals of India.

Within the field of sculpture, Kaneria’s initial works involved using cement, concrete and uncarved wood, although the use of bronze terracotta and clay may be seen in his human figurines and bull sculptures from the late 1950s. His experiments with metal evolved from the use of scrap metal to mild steel and finally stainless steel that involved working with different visual forms. In 1962, there was a shift in his practice as he started working at the Mukund Iron Industry and adopted scrap metal as his medium. The combined use of mild steel and industrial junk and the technique of direct metal welding resulted in works such as Scarecrow (1963) and Cactus (1963) with uneven edges and distorted figures, which were heralded for their “energy, rawness and boldness.” [3] An influence of the Baroda School’s experimentalism of the 1960s is discernible in these works which, through the manipulation of surfaces, textures and color, consciously draw the attention of the viewer.

In 1962, Group 1890 was formed with the ambition of positing a visual language directed towards indigenous abstraction. [4] Kaneria was an important part of this collective, which, although short-lived, represented Indian art's attempts at formulating a distinct identity for the modern Indian artist as well as an appropriate visual language of modernism in India. Kaneria was awarded the Commonwealth scholarship from 1964 to 1967. During this time, he had the opportunity to study under Prof. Bernard Meadows at the Royal College of Art, London. This was followed by the opportunity to join the Walthamstow School of Arts, London (1967-69) and the Hull College of Arts, England as a faculty member (1972). Kaneria’s use of metal evolved significantly during his stay in England. During this time and after, he produced highly polished sculptures of mild steel, signaling the artist's foray into abstract forms. In terms of technique, Kameria made a shift towards combining welding and indirect cashing methods. He welded together readymade forms and cast machinery parts along with plaster reproductions of ready made parts. In his work Sprouting Seed the smoothness and strength of metal is used deftly to communicate the ability of the seed to grow into a large tree. In 2013, when he made a return to steel, he worked seamlessly with stainless steel to produce large-scale works. One of the most striking works among these was a steel sculpture of Lord Shiva's bull, Nandi, which Kaneria depicted in a dynamic stance with its head raised upwards, as opposed to its usual poised/sitting stance in temple structures. [5]

In 1969, Kaneria joined artists Jyoti Bhatt and Bhupendra Karia in their project (started 1967) documenting folk art and traditions of India. This was much in line with Group 1890’s concerns with locating the living traditions of India in rural hinterlands through the intervention of the artist-cum-ethnographer. The black and white photographs produced by Kaneria as part of this project illuminate how traditional art skills may be used to build and beautify aspects of everyday life, including garments, interior design, floor art, bedsheets and pillow cases. [6] For Kaneria, personally, growing up in Saurashtra meant he had witnessed rich folk art traditions like dance, songs, embroidery, ornaments and dresses. Upon his return from London, he realized that these erstwhile ubiquitous art forms were disappearing and therefore sought to document them with the 35mm film camera he had acquired in London. The continued influence of traditional art forms on Kaneria’s work was reflected in the way he crafted ‘pathway icons’ [7] out of broken material in the 1970s and a series of brass heads titled Icons (1981). Sculpture-I (1975), based on abstracting and translating into practice an element of visual culture from the rural areas of northern and western India, was also an outcome of this collaboration.

In individual projects, Kaneria visually records examples of wall murals, paintings, costumes, embroidery and folk performance. Instead of presenting decontextualized snippets of works of art in his photographs, he highlights traditional art as embedded within people’s homes, rituals and everyday lives. A collection of Kaneria’s photographs, is currently being showcased in an exhibition titled Hand-Crafted World: Life, Culture, and Folk-Art of 20th Century India at Arts Fort Worth in Texas, USA, from July 7, 2023 to July 29, 2023. Kaneria refers to the exhibition as a tribute to his mother as it visualizes and visibilizes women's role in creating and sustaining folk art. He says, “rural Indian women of the past era played (a) pivotal role in this folk-art movement. These women were the true artists and this photography exhibition is my humble attempt at paying homage to my mother and all the rest of the women folk artists of India.” [8] Art historian Rebecca M. Brown notes how Kaneria’s photography in this exhibition draws attention towards the process of art-making by following the artist’s hand engaged in embroidery or painting, while also acknowledging the artist's imprint on the final art object. They construct a world where animals, clothing, wall adornments, pottery, and communities are all connected through an ethic of care and work. [9] Michael Charlesworth describes Kaneria's black and white photographs, typical of 20th century Indian photography, as being informed by both ethnographic and artistic sensibilities. [10]

Exhibitions and Awards

Kaneria's important body of work has been presented in several exhibitions and group shows,suchastheBiennaledeParis (1959), the Funaoka Art Museum (1979), the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge (1980), Jehangir Art Gallery (1983), Art Heritage Gallery (1990), the Birla Academy of Arts and Culture (1995), and the DAG Modern (2016). Some of his awards include Lalit Kala Akademi National Awards (1959, 1963), a Silver Medal (1960) and a Gold Medal (1962) from the Bombay Art Society, a prize from the Indian Sculptor’s Association in 1960, a Silver Medal from the All-India Fine Arts and Crafts Society in 1961 and the first prize at the Gujarat State Art Exhibition in 1962, All India Sculptor’s Association Silver Medal (1960), All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society President of India’s Silver Plaque (1960), Kala Ratna from All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (2001), Kalidas Samman from Madhya Pradesh Government in India (2013). He has also won recognition internationally, such as Sainsbury Award in 1967, a Bronze Medal at the Nikon Photo Contest International in 1976 and 1977, prizes from the Annual Photo Contest in Asia and Pacific by the A.C.C. of UNESCO from 1981-1984 and then in 1988, as well as an award from Georgetown Arts & Culture Board in 2022. [11] His work continues to be a part of collections at eminent art institutions, including the National Gallery of Modern Art Delhi, the Lalit Kala Akademi, Art Council of Great Britain, Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge, Royal College of Art, the Salar Jung Museum, as well as of private art collections in the USA, England, Canada, France and Sweden.


1. The Baroda Group, referring to artists involved with the Faculty of Fine Arts at MSU Baroda, was formed in the 1950s. It distinguished itself from the revivalist trends of the Bengal School as well as European academic realism.

2. Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh, eds. No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia. Routledge, 2017, p. 163

3. G. Sharma & Samanta, S. “Sculpted Steel of Raghav Kaneria” ShodhKosh: Journal of Visual and Performing Arts, 3(1), 169-178 (2022). .

4. Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh, eds. No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia. Routledge, 2017, p. 163

5. Shashi Bhushan Kumar. “Juxtaposing Modernism and Regional Modernism: Sculptures of Raghav Kaneria,” In International Journal of Research, Volume 07, Issue 07, 2020. Available at

6. M. Balamani. “Raghav Kaneria.” Journal of Creative Arts and Minds, Vol. 6, No.2, 109-126 (2020).

7. Priya Mookerjee. Pathway Icons: The Wayside Art of India. London: Thames and Hudson, 1987.

8. “Raghav Kaneria.” The Art of India 2023, The Times of India. Available at .

9. Rebecca Brown. Foreword in Raghav Kaneria A Hand-Crafted World: Photography Exhibition Celebrating Life, Culture and Folk Art of 20th Century, Catalogue (2023).

10. Michael Charlesworth. Foreword in Raghav Kaneria A Hand-Crafted World: Photography Exhibition Celebrating Life, Culture and Folk Art of 20th Century, Catalogue (2023).

11. Raghav Kaneria and Ankur Kaneria. Raghav Kaneria: Sculptures * Drawings * Photographs, 2021.

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