K. G. Subramanyan was born in 1924 in Kuthuparambain Kerala, India and studied economics at Presidency College, Madras. The turning point of his life as an artist came when he visited Santiniketan to study at Kala Bhavan, the art faculty of Visva Bharati University in 1944 under the guidance of Nandalal Bose, Benode Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij. Subramanyan studied there till 1948.
In 1951 he became a lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts in M.S. University in Baroda. He went to study briefly in London at the Slade School of Art as a British Council scholar in 1956. While having already gone back to Baroda as a professor in painting and continuing there, he did a short stint in New York as a Rockefeller Fellow in 1966 where he was painted on smaller canvases due to shortage of space which led him to experiment with diptychs and triptychs.
In 1980, Subramanyan went back to Santiniketan to teach painting to his alma mater at Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University. He continued till he retired in 1989 where he was made a Professor Emeritus of Visva Bharati University.
His visual language combines a variety of elements like art principals of European Modernism and folk expression. He is known as a painter, muralist, sculptor, printmaker, set designer and toy maker. He says, “Each medium I explore responds to a particular expressive need of mine, to a particular sensibility strand”. Subramanyan’s works from the late 40’s reflect the influence of his teachers at Shantiniketan. He was commissioned to create a mural recalling ancient Indian temple reliefs at Rabindralaya, Lucknow in his early 60’s combining tiles and handmade units. More recently, Subramanyan has reverted to small-scale works on acrylic sheet revisiting his favourite themes of brilliantly coloured interiors, domestic animals and brazen women. To this he has added Christian mythology and contemporary politics.
Subramanyan resided in Baroda with his daughter Uma, towards the later days of his life and he passed away there in 2016.