Painted in 1981, You Can’t Please All
is widely considered to be Khakhar’s declaration of his homosexuality. Rendered in cool shades of blue, grey and green, it contrasts an urban tableau with the private realm of the individual. An almost life- size figure of a naked man watches from his balcony as a series of scenes from an Aesop fable are enacted below.
You Can't Please All, 1981
Date of work
Oil on canvas. 175.6 x 175.6 cm. Tate. Purchased 1996 © Estate of Bhupen Khakhar
A key figure in 20th century painting, Bhupen Khakhar’s pictures depict the world with unflinching honesty and deep humanity. Born in Bombay in 1934, he worked as an accountant by day and painted in his spare time. His portraits of hairdressers, shopkeepers and accountants challenged the art establishment, recasting the ordinary lives of normal lower-middle class Indians into grand, vibrantly coloured compositions. His later works confronted issues of sexuality and identity. These uncompromising and provocative works were often autobiographical, a means through which he addressed his own homosexuality with rare sensitivity and wit.