photo of Magda

Magda Nachman Acharya (20 July 1889–12 February 1951) was a Russian-born painter, draftsman, and book illustrator. She was born in Pavlovsk (a suburb of St. Petersburg), Russia, into a well-to-do and cultured family. Her father, Maximilian Nachman, was a Jew from Riga; her mother, Klara Emilia Maria von Roeder, was a German-Lutheran. Between 1907 and 1913, Magda attended the Zvantseva Art Academy, in St. Petersburg, where she studied with Léon Bakst, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, and Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. She began exhibiting her work in 1910. In 1916, she moved to Moscow, where she experienced the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the beginning of the Civil War the following year. To escape cold and hunger in Moscow, she fled to the Russian countryside, where she spent most of the next two years, first in Likino, in the Vladimir gubernia, where she worked as a clerk in the forestry office where her brother-in-law was employed. She spent the year from the fall of 1919 to the fall of 1920 in Ust-Dolyssy, in the Vitebsk gubernia, having been invited by Lilya Efron (sister of Sergei Efron) to be the set and costume designer for a “people’s theater“ that Lilya had been hired to direct. Magda returned to Moscow in the autumn of 1920, where the following year, she met and then married the Indian nationalist M.P.T. Acharya, who had arrived in Bolshevik Russia with a group of Indian comrades in search of ideological partners in their struggle for Indian independence. The couple left Russia in 1922 for Berlin. Following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Europe became too dangerous for the half-Jewish Magda Nachman and the Tamil Acharya, and in 1934, they were able to obtain British passports that eventually 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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The photograph of Magda Nachman Acharya appearing on this page has been placed in the public domain by its owner, a great-grand-niece of Magda Nachman, who waives all rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.