India’s noted nun painter dies
By Philip Mathew
Bengaluru: Renowned Christian artist, Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate Sister Claire died on February 11 in Bengaluru. She was 82.
The Hindu convert to Catholicism was unwell for the last few days.
Her funeral will take place in Bengaluru on February 12.
The sister, who always wanted to be known as Sr Claire SMMI, had created more than 2,000 Christian paintings using water color, enamel paints, posture colors and color pens.
She also drew more than 1,000 Christian and Easter greeting cards.
The main focus of her paintings was Christian imagery rooted in the Indian soil. She drew inspiration to paint from the day-to-day life of the common people in India, she said in an interview last year.
She also received inspiration from silence and solitude, in prayer and meditation and when she looked at the beauty of creation.
The artist nun was born in a high caste Hindu family in Tirupati, a Hindu pilgrim center in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Her parents named her Meera, a Hindu mystic poet and a devotee of Lord Krishna. As a young girl, Meera sought spirituality.
As her father had a transferable railway job, she came to Bengaluru and studied in a Christian school, where, as she said once, “My never ending love for Jesus started.”
When the family returned to Tirupati, her parents tried to dissuade her from following the spiritual path by an early marriage. But, she was determined to follow the path of renunciation, and escaped from home three days before the marriage to Bengaluru, where she took refuge in the Salesian convent.
A turning point in her life came when she watched a movie on Christ’s suffering and love that moved her deeply. She felt Jesus had a special message for her and wanted her to become a Christian and join a convent. With special permission from the then Archbishop of Bengaluru, she was baptized and joined the SMMI with her new name, Sr Claire.
Simplicity, powerful expression and rustic expressions of Christian life have been some of the characteristics of the nun’s paintings.
Her paintings have been featured in several art books, and exhibited in art museums and churches and institutions across India and abroad.
Last year, the SMMI opened an art museum in her honor at the convent in Bengaluru.
Late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have admired and promoted her paintings.
Pope Benedict XVI once invited her to the Vatican with a view to felicitate her. But, she was unable to make it.
Sr Claire was a recipient of the lifetime achievement award, the Assisi Art Award in 2012, instituted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
Sister Prema Jose, superior of the SMMI convent in Benagaluru described Sr Claire as a great Christian artist and a wonderful human being.
The people who have met her and knew her say that in spite of her name and fame, Sr Claire was a very humble and unassuming person.