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The influence of the medieval churches


Travelling across Europe, Christian hostels and cathedrals
KG Subramanyan Artist
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I came to know another scholar from the east in British Columbia. He is still there; occasionally I get a letter from him. He was a sculptor. He started sculpture quite early as an apprentice to Meštrović, and he had come on a British Council scholarship at the same time to be in the Slade. So, we had a large community of interests. We wanted to see the same things and things of that kind. So we got together and travelled to the major sort of cathedral towns. So I remember going to Lincoln, then Ely, then further on to Durham, and then he had a great grandmother in Scotland. So we also went there and spent some time. Seeing all these cathedrals was quite a kind of revelation and also I remember during Christmas we were in Lincoln and attended, and I could see something in them which I could not have known before. Then later when I travelled into Europe also, he was my companion. So we went through most of the Romanesque Cathedrals through France, then we went into Italy. Well, he covered more ground because I had to come back early, but then after we covered from north to south, almost to the middle of France, that is Sens, Auxerre, Avallon, Vézelay, Dijon, then from there, there was a plan to go to Moissac and Arles, which I couldn’t do, he did it later.

Did you go to Autun?



Autun, yes, of course. In fact, what disappointed me in Autun was that it was so crowded up with other buildings around so you couldn’t see it from a sort of a distance, otherwise the kind of sculpture that was there. All these were an education in themselves. Then in Vézelay we were there at the time of the Corpus Christi festival and people had come with their crosses all over. We couldn’t find any place to stay, so my friend, George, said well, let me see, there is a sort of a Christian hostel they say. So we went there, then he probably talked to them, can two of us get beds here during this time. I am a Christian but my friend is a Hindu. So that man just looked at him and said will you bring your friend to me? Then I went there, he said you are the first Hindu that’s come to this hostel and you are very welcome. The next morning they fed us breakfast and he drove us to Avallon. We were going from Vézelay to Avallon. It was a good experience and I could see how people are very friendly. I had such experiences all over, and even Durham, when I went to Durham that we didn’t used to go to the youth hostels generally, but the youth hostels were full, there was no other place to stay. We wanted to spend a night there and then return the next day. Then, while walking down the road, it was very drizzly and wet, there was a board saying room to let, so we went in there, and there was an old lady who said, ‘Look, we had a room to let but it is not to let for the next few days because my daughter is coming, so I have kept it ready for her, but there is some place a little further away you can try out’. So we went and that place further away didn’t have any rooms, so we thought we shouldn’t embarrass her, so it was raining quite heavily, so we were just walking away to the railway station. Then we find in the middle of the road this old lady standing with an umbrella and she stopped us and told us I knew that you would do this, that’s why I am standing here. It doesn’t matter, I will make the room again for my daughter later, and she was so good to us. She said you are the first Indian who has come to stay in our house, and of course Durham has a few Indian settlers, so I will try to ring them up if any of them will join for breakfast. She did ring, it was not successful, I mean they were all too busy on something or the other, but then she was extremely nice and she wouldn’t take any money. So we had to go and get a big bunch of flowers and give it to her.

KG Subramanyan (1924-2016) was an Indian artist. A graduate of the renowned art college of Kala Bhavana in Santiniketan, Subramanyan was both a theoretician and an art historian whose writings formed the basis for the study of contemporary Indian art. His own work, which broke down the barrier between artist and artisan, was executed in a wide range of media and drew upon myth and tradition for its inspiration.

Listeners: Timothy Hyman

Timothy Hyman is a graduate of Slade School of Fine Art, London, in which he has also taught. In 1980 and 1982, he was Visiting Professor in Baroda, India. Timothy Hyman has curated many significant art exhibitions and has published articles and monographs on both European and Indian artists.

Duration: 5 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: 2008

Date story went live: 10 September 2010