the 16th of June 1996
smiled and continued, "I used to make a round in the
compound of Santiniketan. Tagore permitted me to come and go
even into his house whenever I wanted. So when I found him,
I used to rush for my painting utensils, settle down
somewhere near and paint.
did not know I was there painting him'...
There is one painting I have given to the National
Museum here in Delhi. I was seeing him from the front. He
was always trying to find a little protected area, that
people should not come up from behind and surprise him. That
was on the first floor of the 'big house'. There I believe I
caught him composing. When he was hiding like this and felt
secluded, he used to create something special.
I remember, I went upstairs in the 'big house' going
round the veranda. One window was open. He was sitting at
the table. Sometimes picking up his pen. Sometimes just
listening. His little grand-daughter was playing the piano
downstairs. And some music waved up. Then he would pick up
his pen and make notes on the paper. Maybe he was composing
something. I don't know. So when I saw him like this I
rushed for my things. (I am so sorry, but my paint box got
lost later on in Nainital.)
I took off my chappals. Slowly went over the very low
window-sill. There were some flower pots which protected me.
Then I settled down crossed legs with my canvas and painted.
I was very happy to see and paint him like this. Normally he
was never alone, always visitors and students and many other
people were around him. Of course, he met everybody very
courteously. But here I had him being himself. I worked
breathlessly so that he should not notice me."
did not know I was there painting him'...
Dagmar asked, "he did not know you were
there?" Elizabeth answered, "no. Later on he
lifted up his head and noticed me. But then the painting was
already done. He had a shock when he realized that he was
not alone in the room. And then he got up and came over. He
seemed so tall to me there with my picture and paints on the
floor, I thought a mountain was moving toward me. Then he
stood and looked at my painting for quite some time. Then he
Elizabeth continued, "only when my paintings
were finished would he ask to look at them. The beauty was
that he allowed me to move freely around. I was only a girl
of nineteen-twenty, rather childish and innocent. But I
could go to the house and inside wherever I wanted to. I did
not need to ask permission from anybody.
Buddha Statue (My first glimpses of Buddha)
After that day (when I painted him in his upstairs
room), I took my utensils and went down to the lower part of
the house and the reception room. A very beautifully
designed and decorated room. Gurudev had also come down and
he was standing near the table. His daughter-in-law was
there, too, maybe arranging his five-o'clock tea. He turned
around and looked at me saying, 'I have been painted all
over the world by famous artists, but this chit of a girl
caught me'!" Elizabeth was grinning and Dagmar laughed
She continued, "I had his permission to go
anywhere I liked to go, but after this incident, he even
said 'you can come anytime.' After this I did that painting
in the easy-chair on the veranda of the 'small house'. We
stayed two years in Santiniketan and whenever I felt like it,
I painted him.
In the meantime he decided not to stay in that 'big
house' any longer. That 'big house' was called ‘Uttarayan’.
Very fancily made up, all his own design. Everything noble.
He used to sleep on the roof of that room where I painted
him first. That was his bed room. In the hot season, his bed
was taken up to the roof above. We all went to bed very late
because the nights were more bearable then the days. Our
little house was right next door to ‘Uttarayan’. And
looking up we could see, his bed was there, his table was
there, his faithful attendant was there.
- It was such shame that I could not talk to this man,
because I did not know Bengali.
Tagore was walking up and down and finally settling down.
Watching the moon and the change of the colours. When, after
an hour, I would look up again, he was not there anymore. If
the wind came from an uncomfortable direction, the attendant
had to shift everything to another part of the roof-veranda,
for instance the opposite side. Very often, three, four
times he changed."
Dagmar asked, "his wife must have died
early?" Elizabeth said, "hm! His daughter-in-law
cared for him, looked after him. He used to have his tea
with his daughter-in-law ..."
"When did Tagore shift to the smaller
accommodation?" Dagmar queried again and Elizabeth
answered, "we were still there in Santiniketan. It
seems, he suddenly asked his people to build him a small hut
only from earth." Dagmar, "mud-house, very healthy
and cooling." Elizabeth continued, "yes. I suppose
the 'big house' must have become too noisy for him.
By the way, he planted a tree in his garden on
everyone of his birthdays. And he visited each tree on each
birthday, and also every morning. Then, they were just
growing. Meantime I have seen photographs and now they have
grown into beautiful big trees.
That 'small house' had only one bedroom and a
veranda open towards the front. There, on the one side he
had his easy-chair and on the other side a table and chair
which was brought out every morning. His books were also put
on the table."
veranda-wall behind Tagore was painted by the artists who
build the mud-house'...
Dagmar asked, "you must have painted him from
the inside of the mud-house in that painting because behind
him there is a landscape." But Elizabeth explained,
"that veranda-wall was painted by the artists who built
the mud-house. That is why there is a scenery behind him in
my painting. -
This little house was his dream house. Up to the
O yes, and Tagore had a 'self-operating' dog and two
peacocks." Dagmar asked, "a what dog?"
Elizabeth smiled, "a dog which choose to be with him
and he loved these animals very dearly.
This painting was also my last painting of Tagore.
The plastic got off and I have to replace it."
(Paintings which are hanging in Elizabeth's room have
see-through plastic covers so that the oil is not too badly
affected by the weather.) Dagmar asked, "were you there
when Tagore died?" Elizabeth shook her head in denial.