India, Nov. 27 -- Bhanu Athaiya is a "Progressive long lost to view; she is indeed, the only woman Progressive," art critic Ranjit Hoskote writes in the catalogue for an upcoming auction.

Athaiya, who died in October, aged 91, is best known for being the first individual Indian to receive an Oscar, which the costume designer won for her work on Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982). But she could have had a career as a very different kind of artist.

"After her death, we visited her home," says Inderjit Chatterjee, founder and curator at Prinseps, the Mumbai-based auction house conducting an online auction of 29 of her art works, on December 2. "On the walls were striking canvases and watercolours, including the oil-on-canvas Prayers, tha...