The daughter of a German-Lutheran mother and a Jewish father, Magda Nachman was born on July 20, 1889, in Pavlovsk, Russia, near St. Petersburg, into a well-to-do and cultured family. At the age of 17, she entered the Zvantseva Art Academy, in St. Petersburg, directed by the great Leon Bakst, with the expectation of a more or less predictable life in art. In 1916, Magda moved to Moscow. And then the twentieth century intervened. World War I, the Revolutions of 1917, and the beginning of the Civil War the following year forced her into a peripatetic existence in various Russian provincial towns and villages, where she struggled to support herself by exchanging portraits for food, designing sets in “people’s” theaters, and taking on various odd jobs to keep afloat. In 1921, she met and then married the Indian nationalist M.P.T. Acharya, and they left Russia in 1922 for Berlin. Following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Europe became too hot for the half-Jewish Magda Nachman and the Tamil Acharya, and in 1935, they managed to obtain British passports that allowed them to travel to Bombay, India, where Magda became a widely acclaimed painter of Indian subjects. She died in Bombay on February 12, 1951.
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