Women of Substance
Painters of Indian Freedom
The Brunners?mother, Elizabeth Sass Brunner and the daughter Elizabeth Brunner?were Hungarian by birth. They both were painters. They came to India at a time when she was in the grip of one of the greatest political movements in the world?freedom struggle.
The way the Brunners came to India is thrilling. The mother Brunner had a vision in the night of December 28, 1928. A white-robed apparition told her to go to India, for, that”swhere she would find what she was looking for. Sass Brunner had come to Budapest with her daughter, from Nagykaniza, in Hungary, after her husband, also a painter, went into seclusion, disillusioned with World War I. In Budapest, she turned spiritual, offering herself to God.
Elizabeth Sass Brunner had heard of only one name in India ?Rabindranath Tagore. She simply wrote a letter to Shri Rabindranath Tagore, India. As destiny would have it, she received a reply and an invitation to visit Shantiniketan. She packed her things and left Hungary with her daughter and arrived in February 1930. In Shantiniketan, when she saw the portrait of Rabindranath Tagore”sfather, Maharishi Devendranath Tagore, she recognised him as the figure in the apparition.
Daughter Elizabeth was only 19, when she came to India. She died in May 2001, at the age of 91, at her home in Delhi. She was conferred the title Padma Shri in 1985. Both the mother and daughter painted exhaustively. Both have done several paintings of Buddha, which are considered masterpieces, as they capture the divine compassion.
They traveled all over India, visiting holy places from Rameshwaram to the Himalayas and Bengal to Gujarat. They interacted with the great political personalities of the time like Mahatma Gandhi, Vinobha Bhave and Pandit Nehru. The daughter Brunner said of her mother, that she would go into hours of silence and solitude and she often saw visions. The art critics have noted the spiritual content in their portrayals, an artist”smind transcending the physical.
Together, the two Brunners have done more than 2000 paintings. Their work has been exhibited all over the world and on several occasions in India. While the mother mainly painted nature and concepts, the daughter chose portraits. It is said of Elizabeth Brunner, that a visiting foreign doctor felt her aura almost 400 feet. She was then 80. The doctor mentioned in the contest of discussing the Indian belief that if there is one good person, the humanity in the entire vicinity benefits. Such was the life of penance lived by the Brunners.