Thursday, June 10, 2010

Amrita Shergil - The Holme and The Studio, Shimla

-->Oral history is a blessing!
The search for Amrita Shergil’s (1913 – 1941) home called The Holme took me around Summer Hill, Shimla many times before I found the house that belonged to her family. Shut out from public view with high grey walls the house is not visible at all from the streets. In fact the property has been divided and sold and there are now two owners of the property, one being the Escorts Group in Faridabad, Delhi. Thus, the house The Holme and much of the compound belongs to them, while Amrita Shergil’s The Studio belongs to someone else.

Having taken the help of a senior gentleman in the locality and the shop-keepers, I was able to get to The Holme but was only able to get some pictures of it, in bits and pieces from the streets, the opposite buildings and our story tellers own house.

There was a Sikh gentleman called Shergil, who married a western woman and they had a daughter called Amrita. Look down. Can you see this house with a green roof? That is called The Holme. This is where Mr Shergil lived with his wife and their daughter. When he saw that Amrita was growing into a great artist and many people were visiting her to see her paintings, he built her a studio where she could paint and welcome those who came to see the paintings. It became to be known as The Studio”.
Of Amrita Shergil Wikipedia says that “In 1921 her family moved to Summer Hill, Shimla in India, and soon began learning piano and violin, and by age in nine she along with her younger sister Indira were giving concerts and acting in plays at Shimla's Gaiety Theatre at Mall Road, Shimla. Though she was already painting since the age of five she formally started learning painting at age eight”.

Actually The Studio is a hop-skip-and a jump away from the backside of Summer Hill Station, Shimla.

“In September 1941, the family moved to Lahore but sadly just days before the opening of her first major solo show in Lahore, she became seriously ill and slipped into a coma and later died around midnight on December 6, 1941, leaving behind a large volume of work, and a mystery behind. The real reason for death has never been ascertained, something expected in view of the overly sensationalised accounts of Amrita's life in the words of her contemporaries. A failed abortion and subsequent peritonitis also have been suggested as the possible causes. She was cremated on December 7, 1941 at Lahore.” – Wikipedia

During her lifetime, Amrita is said to have been also famous for her many affairs with both women and men.

Photo credit
: Wikipedia – Amrita Shergil in her study as photographed by her father
To know more on Amrita:

More photos:


Mridula said...

Beautiful post Julia. Thoroughly enjoyed it in the middle of some hectic work.

Julia Dutta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Durgasankar Mandal said...

I was captivated by Sher Gil's work when I was a small kid in 1983 at a book fair in Purulia. I purchased a booklet that contained some prints for Rs.8.

I still have that booklet. :).

Later after I came to know of the Impressionists, I found a striking similarity of her style to the crazy painter Paul Gauguin. Still later, I came to know her wild sex life style. Why, she would do it with almost anybody or anything as long as it resembled a man :). quite a remarkable woman!

Amrita said...

I admire Amrita Shergill 's brilliant work Julia. Quite a woman.

Enjoying your tours of the Shimla heritage.

They hav e preserved the house very well. Are people allowed inside?

A Shergill died very young - a pity.

Durgasankar Mandal said...

Here's the piece from Khushwant Singh Amrita Sher Gil on how Amrita died when her cousin-husband Victor peromed a bothed up surgery to abort her pregnancy by Yusuf Ali Khan, son of the Nawab of Akbarpur. He made her pregnant and infected her with venereal disease as well.

busybee said...

Mr. Mandal, How do you know that Madame Amrita Shergil was contaminated by a venereal disease?
Hear say or facts?

Durgasankar Mandal said...

This is in response to Busybee: Neither. This merely is a repetition of what Khushwant Singh wrote. His original writing was published long time ago - and he was not so far dragged to the court on his comment. :) Extract from his writing can be accessed from the above link I gave. Happy reading!

Julia Dutta said...

Durga, OMG! I never realised you had commented here. Thanks for your views and noted the points too.

Only men care so much about who a woman sleeps with, and those women who do the same, are merely a mediocre lot, of which there may be many, who are like men but in a woman's body. *sigh* There is no place for the body, in an artist's mind; it is merely a confluence of energies. But...

I know you will differ with me!


Julia Dutta said...

Alas! Amrita, I have responded very late. However, here it is: Yes, the property belongs as I said to different groups and of course the maintenance is perfect. I am not sure about it Amrita - I don't know if people are allowed inside. I suppose it is possible with permission from whomever.
Thanks for reading. I enjoyed Shimla very much :)

Julia Dutta said...

Thanks, Durga, but I reserve my opinion. I am sorry that we are focussed on venereal disease, in a post about her art. Who cares about that! We are sorry she had to leave so early, that is all.

Julia Dutta said...

Yes, I am with you. Why is Durga so hung up on her sex life and the affects thereafter!
Women are free to sleep with anyone, how does it matter? And they must give their "creative juices" to dance a-merry and not let it lie stale in the undies of what society calls a husband. Let the juices flow!

Julia Dutta said...

You are insurrable in this matter. Stop being so Bong!

Durgasankar Mandal said...

:). "Insurrable" interesting word! never heard it. How's a bong like? :).

Durgasankar Mandal said...

Oh yeah! only men do? I thought I heard otherwise :). Now banters apart - let me quote Lorenzo the Medici - "art is a sensual thing". But the volcanic nature of sensuousness makes interesting stories: Khuswant was both prodigal and prodigious in relating them - which was my only point

Durgasankar Mandal said...

We often compartmentalise a little too much - I am not sure if that's a right thing when one thing does not and cannot exist without the other. An artist/scientist/joker/actor/ servant/clerk is not only about his/her chosen area of professsion. let's focus on the whole. Amrita sher Gill was beyond any reasonable doubt was a formiddable artist. But that is not the full story. full story is what she was as a whole, with her perhaps cunning, jealousy, recklessness, kindness, violence, laziness, joyfulness,kindness, softness and sensuousness. Claus fuchs was a brilliant scientist, but he was also a thief; he was also an idealist, but he was also ruthless with a criminal mind.

Durgasankar Mandal said...

Only women? I guess as human - every body is free to do anything they please, and free to bear the consequences. for example - certain malaise about which there was much hullabaloo above.

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