Raja Ravi Varma: One of the greats of Indian Art

There has been a lot of renowned artists in pre & postmodern history of India. The name of few artists has lost in the time while some still invigorate that sense of ecstasy and blissfulness in the mind of art aficionados.

Out of such esteemed artists, Raja Ravi Varma is an eminent branch of a vast tree of Indian art. Who was Raja Ravi Varma?

If you are an art lover and have even a bit of knowledge about the history of art of India, you must have heard this name.

This blog is entirely dedicated to the pioneer of Indian paintings. Let’s start:

The personal life

Born in Neelakanthan Bhattatiripadand Umayamba Thampuratty in the royal palace of Kilimanoor, Raja Ravi Verma showed his talent and interest in art from a young age only.

Recognizing his talent and flair for art, Ravi Varma was sent under the guidance of Ayilyam Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore at the tender age of 14.

Rama Swami Naidu, the painter at the palace made Ravi Varma familiar with the gradation of water paintings. Then, a Dutch painter named as Theodor Jenson gave Ravi Varma insightful sessions on oil paintings.

At an age of 18, Raja Ravi Varma was married and had five children thereon.

The Art and Raja Ravi Varma

Did you know that it was Raja Ravi Varma’s painting that was showcased at a prestigious art convention in Vienna in the year 1873? Yes, then!

Not only this, his work at the Vienna exhibition also won him an award for his work.

Creating a path of his own, Raja Ravi Varma was a bold and ferocious painter who was not afraid of defying the older tradition and adopting new methods.

At World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Raja Ravi Varma was able to bag three gold medals for this impeccable artistry.

A lot of arguments conspire today about how the work of Ravi Varma was able to reach out to the elites in the west. Well, the truth is, British administrator Edgar Thurston was the man who mainly helped to make the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma cross the sea and reach the western world.

Still, whatever the means was, it was the sheer brilliance and exquisite artistry of the Ravi Varma that made him won accolades in the western world at a time when no Indian artist could even think to match with the art of Europe and America.

Varma was a curious artist. In fact, an artist is not an artist if he/she is not curious. It was this curiosity that made Varma travel from one city to another seeking the most appropriate theme.

Varma was always obsessed with the beauty and charisma of South Indian Women. The obsession made him paint his close kin that made them gain fame via his impeccable paintings.

This eminent personality of phenomenal Indian art was known to craft mainly three sorts of paintings; portraits, portraits based compositions, and theatrical compositions (basically based on religious and mythological epics).

And no wonder, it was the theatrical compositions that mostly made him earned the accolades. Since art was not open for all sections of society in that time epoch, so Varma painted famous mythological events from the religious scriptures to narrate the tales to those people who weren’t allowed to read or see them.

The epics from the tales of Dushyanta & Shakuntala and Nala and Dayamanti were some of the most popular paintings of this renowned artist.

During the late 19th century, lithographic printing was earning the fame in a lot of European nations and in the USA, which draws the attention of Ravi Varma.

Varma opened up a press in Mumbai and later on transited it to a place near Lonavala. With the help of this press, Ravi Varma came up with numerous oleographs that hold the representation of Hindu deities. This press was a state-of-the-art art studio at that time in India.

The Infamous Raja Ravi Varma

Can you imagine, that a dignitary of Indian art was actually criticised harshly?

Sometimes, the criticism was because he was too expressive in his paintings. As I told Raja Ravi Varma was a bold and courageous artist, so, he continued depicting the tales of Hindu deities defying the conventional art standards for which he gained a lot of negative publicity.

Raja Ravi Varma could not stand the idea of discrimination but knew that this evil does persist and hence he showcased Indian women from religious and Mythological tales with pale skin. This was heavily opposed by the Indian society.

The Final Takeaway

The champ of Indian art, Raja Ravi Varma is not forgotten. The Kerala government honour the upcoming individuals who display promising talent in art and culture with ‘Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram’ award. Apart from this, a college in his name is incepted in Mavelikkara district of Kerala in his honour.

He was truly an artist out of time and conventions. What’re your thoughts? Tell us in the comment section. Thanks!

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