Another piece of fine art - encountered in a friend's north London living room.
Dorothy ('Dorf') Bonarjee - born in Lucknow in 1894 - was a poet and lawyer. She studied at Aberystwyth, attracted by the Welsh bardic tradition, and later eloped with a French man, an artist, who painted this wonderful portrait. She lived most of her life in France. She was part of the noted Calcutta Bonnerjee family. Her uncle (I think I've got that right) was W.C. Bonnerjee, the first president in 1885 of the Indian National Congress. Her niece lives in Gospel Oak.
Posted below is an example of her verse - not perhaps the most polished of pieces but written when she was about twenty, just as the First World War was getting underway, and obviously written with great feeling.
Fantastic! I hope Sheela has seen this! 'Aunt Dorf' as Sheela called her was quite a character as was her daughter, the wonderful Aruna whom I had the pleasure of knowing since I came here in 1991. I was the new kid in town and not working so Aruna kindly took me under her wing and fed me a bit of art and culture and I reciprocated by feeding her indian meals that she loved! We went along to all the art galleries of London and she enthralled me with anecdotes of some famous artist whom she know as a little girl in France. Aruna was a journalist and always had something to say about everything! She was wonderfully blunt and always managed to stun people with her candid comments laced with the odd expletive as it was least expected from an old lady! I miss her terribly.
In answer to queries - Dorf's husband, and the painter of this portrait, was Paul Surtel - there's a website devoted to his work http://www.paulsurtel.fr/
I quote from a letter about Dorf written a couple of years ago, provided to me by the family and making the case for remembering her and her achievements:
Thrilled to see this article online.She was my grand aunt.My maternal grandfather's elder sister.Grandpa's book has a lovely photograph of hers as well.The book was published by OUP and titled Under Two Masters by Neil Bonarjee.
Tapan Kumar Mukherjee
I would like to draw your kind attention to the fact that a news item on Dorothy Bonarjee has been published in the Indian English daily The Sunday Statesman dated 4th May 2014 under its regular column '100 Years Ago'. It relates to her winning a prestigious poetry competition in Welsh Eisteddfod in University College Aberystwyth. Her father Mr D.N. Bonarjee who was on holiday tour in England at that time was also present in the prize distribution ceremony and delivered a short speech at the request of the student community. I hope you will be happy to read this news item.
Hi, my name is Quentin Surtel, I'm Paul Surtel's grand-son (from his second marriage with Elia [Duc] Surtel).
Hi, Yes, I know my parents went and visitited it, I will try to find some more infirmation.
Lilian de Jonge
As I visit the South of France often, Grimaud, I would love to know which domain Dorothy owned...
Very interesting story. Found my way hear after reading another fascinating story of Dorothy's life on the BBC website. I can relate to her life and experiences in a few ways (I also write poetry,I was born in East Africa, raised in North America and now living in Europe with 2 kids, a girl and boy. The picture of her and her son Denis really struck me as he appears to be around the same age and also resembles my son but I was sad to read he died in infancy and I wonder the impact it had on Dorothy? and I also wonder why as from what I have read she did not practice law? And although maybe sensitive, why did baby Denis die?
Alfonsina, to answer you, Denis died by accident ; he had found pills lying around and ate them as a child would do. Verry sad.
Lilian de Jonge
Visited France&gonfaron recently...
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