Hundreds of tourists visit Hampi for at least seven to eight months in a year. There are those that spend months on end in the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, marvelling at the sheer beauty of the architecture. And then, there are those that have chosen to stay on at Hampi. Holland’s Robert Geesink is one among them. He lives in a small house in Prakash Nagar behind the Virupaksha temple in Hampi. At any given time, you can spot Geesink lost in painting the glorious structures of Hampi. He also paints a picture of the life of the common man in this ancient town.
Memorials, temples, the banks of the Tungabhadra river, the colourful attire of Lambani women all find a place on Geesink’s canvas. His paintings have a huge demand in European countries. Between 1975 and 1987, he had an agreement with the then Dutch government to paint, and earned a monthly royalty of Rs 25,000. Amsterdam’s Dutch gallery has even honoured him with a title.
Robert’s life is as colourful as the pictures he paints of Hampi. His father was also an artist, who worked in Hollywood. Initially, Robert was a graphic artist in his father’s studio. Later, he left for Paris to break away from the monotony. After working with cinema artists, he quit his work there. This was because conditions were imposed on him to paint in the American style.
Robert visited India in 1978. After touring Gujarat, Kanyakumari and other places, he came to Hampi. After giving the great temples and architecture here one glance, he decided to stay put in Hampi. Initially, he lived in an ashram in the town. A local Lambani woman called Seethamma ensured that he ate his meals from time to time. Eventually, he married this Lambani woman from Hampi.
Hampi’s Mariammana Gadde was where he started to paint. He created tens of paintings at this spot. He even taught his wife how to paint. Seethamma’s death, after 17 years of togetherness, shook Robert. He later married a relative of Seethamma and now has four children. Robert can easily converse in the Lambani language. Robert’s paintings have been exhibited in various galleria across the world. Robert is also deeply interested in playing the guitar and the saxophone.
His life and works have inspired a student to submit a doctorate thesis on him to the Kannada University in Hampi.
Robert in now 68 years old, but not short of enthusiasm. He wants to exhibit his paintings in Delhi’s Lalit Kala Akademi and other major galleria across the country. Meanwhile, Robert continues to be one proud resident of Hampi.