Walter Langhammer (1905–1977)
Shortly after arriving in India, Langhammer set up an open house at his studio and became a mentor to young Indian artists who later became the leading figures of India’s Progressive Art movement, including Sayed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain, and Krishnaji Howlaji. On Sundays, Indian artists and intellectuals flocked to the salon in the Langhammer home. Together with Rudolf von Leyden and Emmanuel Schlesinger, he introduced a generation of Indian artists to Expressionist works like those of his teacher Oskar Kokoschka. The Expressionist aesthetic and bright, saturated color palette were fundamentally different from that of the Royal Academy of Art, which previously controlled art education in Indian schools. Just as Langhammer influenced his young protégés, they, and the experience of India, shaped his own work. The colors and light he encountered in India became Langhammer’s obsession.
LIFE & MIGRATION
Walter Langhammer was born in Graz, Austria in 1905. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He married Käthe Urbach, who came from a Jewish family of Social Democrats. After the Nazis came to power, his wife’s Jewish background as well as his own political beliefs motivated Langhammer to leave Austria. Through personal connections he was invited to become the new Art Director of the Times of India. The Langhammers moved to Bombay (today Mumbai) and immediately took an active part in the cultural scene of the city. Langhammer joined and exhibited with existing Indian artist groups such as the Bombay Art Society, and he also formed close friendships with other Austrian exiles. Because of his deteriorating health condition, he and his wife emigrated to London in 1957, where the painter never achieved the artistic success he had in India.