Topolski first visited India during the Second World War. In 1949 Nehru, who had led the country to independence, invited him to return to participate in the celebrations which marked India becoming a republic (26 January 1950). Topolski took with him his huge painting ’The East’ which Nehru had bought for India. Topolski stayed with Nehru and his family for almost two months, and accompanied Nehru on a tour of western and central India.
Within the section of the Century which reflects his visit, Topolski has depicted the faces of many prominent Indian politicians. He has included both Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, both of whom were dead by the time Topolski returned to India, but both still hugely influential figures.
Topolski had met and drawn Gandhi on his previous trip to India. During his time in India, Topolski met Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi, who herself became Prime Minister in 1966. The two families became friends and when Indira was in London she would visit Topolski at his studio. The family connection continues — Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi is a patron of the Century.