Jyoti Bhatt was born in 1934 in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. One of his biggest inspirations was ‘Shishu-Vihar’, the art institute that his father managed. This proved highly influential as Bhatt took an interest in drawing at an early age. He studied painting and printmaking at MS University in Baroda from 1950-56. Under his mentor KG Subramanyan, Bhatt explored the academic divides between art and craft. During these years he also learnt the art of fresco and mural painting at Banasthali Vidyapith in Rajasthan and began teaching at MS University, Faculty of Fine Arts. In 1961 Bhatt won an Italian government scholarship to study at the Academia Di Belle Arti in Naples for two years. From Italy, he went to the Pratt institute in New York to train in graphic arts, where he had received a Fulbright fellowship. He experimented with cubism and pop art until he arrived at his own style which was inspired by folk art. Although he worked in watercolours and oils, he developed a strong interest in printmaking.
Bhatt returned to Vadodara in 1966 and continued to teach painting at the MS University. In 1967, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan organised a seminar in Bombay on the folk arts of Gujarat and it was this that inspired Bhatt to begin working on what was to become a major, but relatively unexplored part of his work. He travelled through Gujarat, visiting villages and tribal regions, taking photographs of the changing world he encountered. It became his passion to document traditional craft and design work. His pursuit to qualify the camera as a painter’s tool is evident in the landmark exhibition he organised in 1969, ‘Painters with a Camera’. His photos were direct and simple in composition and focused on folk art.
Bhatt has won numerous prizes including The Presidents Gold Plaque, gold medal at the International Print Biennale, Italy, UNESCO Photo contest, Japan and the top prize and ‘Fotokina’ World Photography Contest, Germany. He has also painted a number of public murals including at Parliament House, New Delhi. He was a founder member of the Baroda Group of Artists and has had over twenty-five solo shows, both in India and abroad. In 2019, he was awarded the Padma Shri.
He now lives and works in Vadodara.