J. Swaminathan was born in Simla, India, and pursued an art education at the Delhi Polytechnic; afterward, he won a scholarship to study graphics at the Academy of Fine Arts, in Warsaw, Poland. By the late 1960s he had gained recognition as an important Indian painter, and was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1968. In addition to his numerous solo exhibitions, Swaminathan’s work was included in the Tokyo Biennale in 1965, and the first International Triennale India, in 1968.
His early works include many robust paintings and drawings of figurative subjects. Over time, he evolved towards abstraction. Underlying his oeuvre is a deep spiritual revere.