Raja Ravi Varma- The Master
Raja Ravi Varma the world famous painter was born on 29th April 1848 in Kilimanoor, a small hamlet in the southern state of Kerala, He belonged to a family of scholars, poets and artists. As a small boy, he filled the walls of his home with pictures of animals, acts and scenes from his daily life, which though irked the domestics, but his uncle noted the genius in him. His uncle himself was a tanjaore artist, who not only gave ravi varma the first drawing lessons, but he took keen inetrest in nurturing his talent and provided him with further training with the help of the ruling king, Ayilyam Thirunal. At the age of 14, He was sent to Moodath Madam house of the Kilimanoor Palace, Thiruvananthapuram for further training in water colour painting under the guidance of the palace painter Rama Swamy naidu. Ravi varmas talent nurtured here also by the personal interest of Ayilyam Thirunal who exposed him to the famous italian paintings and painters.
Ravi Varma had been using natural colours made from leaves, flowers, tree bark and soil which his uncle Raja Raja Varma prepared for him. His first set of oil paints was brought from Madras after noticing a newspaper advertisement. But he was new to oil painting and only one person in Travancore knew the technique of oil painting – Ramaswamy Naicker of Madura, But he refused to teach him recognizing him as a potential rival. Then it was naickers student, Arumugham Pillai, against his teacher’s wishes, would actually sneak into Moodath Madam at night to share his knowledge with Varma.
This secret education was only supplemented by watching a visiting Dutch portrait artist who painted the portraits of Ayilyam Thirunal and his wife. Through trial, error and hard work, Ravi Varma worked with the pliable medium, learning to blend, smooth and maneuver the flexibility and mastered the art of oil painting. Ravi Varma’s fame as a portrait artist soared and he got several other important portrait commissions from the Indian aristocracy and British officials between 1870-1878. His clever portrayal would add elegance to the personality of the protagonist, The recognition that Ravi Varma received in major exhibitions abroad was for the portrait-based renditions, which were meticulous compositions of people, their demeanor and attires. It was in the year 1873 he won the First Prize at the Madras Painting Exhibition and he became a world famous after winning in 1873 Vienna Exhibition. Varma’s paintings were also sent to the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 and he was awarded three gold medals.
He started honing his skills for theatrical compositions based on Indian myths and legends. ” Nala Damayanti”, ” Shantanu and Matsyagandha”, ” Shantanu and Ganga”, “Radha and Madhava”, ” Kamsa Maya”, “Shrikrishna and Devaki”, ” Arjuna and Subhadra”, ” Draupadi Vastraharan”, ” Harischandra and Taramati”, “Vishwamitra and Menaka”, ” Seetaswayamvaram”, “The Birth of Sri Krishna”, ‘ Keechaka and Sairanthri’ took new forms under his skillful brush.He travelled throughout India in search of subjects. He often modelled Hindu Goddesses on South Indian women, whom he considered beautiful.Ravi Varma’s representation of mythological characters has become a part of the Indian imagination of the epics. Many of his fabulous paintings are housed at Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara. In the year 1894 he set up an oleography press called the Ravi Varma Pictures Depot. For photo-litho transfers, the Pictures Depot relied on Phalke’s Engraving & Printing whose proprietor, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, became famous as dadasaheb of Indian Cinema a few years later. Raja Ravi varma breathed his last on 5th of October 1906.
The following is a list of the prominent works by Raja Ravi Varma.
- Village Belle
- Lady Lost in Thought
- Damayanti Talking to a Swan
- The Orchestra
- Arjuna and Subhadra
- The heartbroken
- Swarbat Player
- Lord Krishna as Ambassador
- Jatayu, a bird devotee of Lord Rama is mauled by Ravana
- Victory of Indrajit
- The gypsies
- A Lady Playing Swarbat
- Lady Giving Alms at the Temple
- Lord Rama Conquers Varuna
- Marth Mariyam and Unni isho
- Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios of Parumala
- Nair Woman
- Romancing Couple
- Draupadi Dreading to Meet Kichaka
- Shantanu and Matsyagandha
- Shakuntala Composing a Love Letter to King Dushyanta
- Girl in Sage Kanwa’s Hermitage