Bhanu Athaiya was the first woman artist to receive a gold medal from the J.J. School of Art for her work 'Lady in Repose', which was the first-ever abstract painting to be made by a member of the Progressive Artists' Group . This work which she addressed as Lying Lady in one of her handwritten letters along with The Nuns was painted as a part of her study at J.J. where Vasudeo S. Gaitonde was her mentor. In 1952, Gaitonde created the artwork 'Painting No.1' displayed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
As a result of my winning the gold medal and a fellowship from J.J. School of Arts, I was invited to be part of the PAG. On the 1st day, new entrants had to do a painting. I did one of a woman sitting on a swing and her friends pushing the swing in the style of Amrita Sher-Gil.
- Bhanu Athaiya
Two of Bhanu Rajopadhye's artworks were included in the 1953 Progressive Artists' Group show in Bombay. While most of Bhanu's works from the period are figurative, there is an avant-garde Lady In Repose (1951) that verges on the abstract.
Lady in Repose by Bhanu Athaiya, 1951