Subramanyan was born in 1924 in a village in Kerala, India, and initially studied economics at Presidency College, Madras During the freedom struggle he was actively involved and was known for his Gandhian ideology. He was even imprisoned and later banned from joining government colleges during the British rule. The turning point in his life, as an artist, came when he visited Shantiniketan to study in Kala Bhavan, at the art faculty of Visva Bharati University, in the year 1944, under the tutelage of such pioneers of modern Indian art such as Nandlal 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. In 1980, Subramanyan went back to Shantiniketan to teach in his alma mater Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, in the capacity of professor in painting, which he continued till he retired in 1989. In the same year he was made a Professor Emeritus of Visva Bharati.
Subramanyan now stays in Baroda with his daughter Uma.
Honours and awards
Memberships and Associations
Has also been on the Board of studies of M.S. University, Baroda; Benaras Hindu University, Benaras; Punjab University, Chandigarh; College of Fine Arts, Trivadrum, Kerala; Faculty of Fine Arts, Bombay University; Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta etc. Member of the Editorial advisory Board of Leonardo