RAJA RAVI VARMA’S BIRTH ANNIVERSARY
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April 29 marks the birth anniversary of the painter Raja Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran.
- The prolific artist (1848-1906) was born in a royal family in Kilimanoor, Kerala.
- From a very tender age, Raja Ravi Varma started drawing pictures on the walls of his home.
- His talent was recognized by his uncle Raja Raja Varma, an artist himself, who sent his nephew to the royal court, where Raja Ravi Varma got training. In those times, oil was a relatively new medium for Indian artists so Raja Ravi Varma self-tutored himself.
- At the age of 14, Varma was patronised by Ayilyam Thirunal, the then ruler of Travancore, and went on to receive training in watercolours from Ramaswamy Naidu, the royal painter.
- He is remembered for giving Indians their western, classical representations of Hindu gods and goddesses.
- Through his printing press, Varma’s humanised depiction of Hindu pantheon travelled beyond the surfaces of costly canvases, and into the prayer and living rooms of working-class homes.
- His 1873 painting, Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair, won Varma prestigious awards including Governor’s Gold Medal when it was presented in the Madras Presidency, and Certificate of Merit at an exhibition in Vienna.
- In 1904, the British colonial government awarded Varma with the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal. In 2013, a crater on the planet Mercury was named in his honour.
- He mastered the reproduction of his work on the lithographic press– through which his paintings spread far and wide.
- Lithographic press is a method of printing based on the principle that oil and water do not mix.
- Paintings were earlier sent to Germany and Austria to be lithographed.
- Varma set up his own printing press in Maharashtra — first in Ghatkopar and eventually in Lonavala in 1894.
Best known works:
- The Begum’s Bath”, “There comes Papa”, “Decking the Bride”, “Portrait of a Lady”, “Kadambari”, A Family of Beggars, A Lady Playing Swarbat, Arjuna and Subhadra, Damayanti Talking to a Swan, Jatayu (a bird devotee of Lord Rama), Lady Lost in Thought, Shakuntala.
Digital retrospective :
- To mark the 172nd birth anniversary of one of India’s foremost painters Raja Ravi Varma, Google launched a digital retrospective of the artist’s paintings on its non-profit initiative Google arts and culture.
- The retrospective that features over 700 images of his paintings prints, sketches and rare photographs, has been unveiled in partnership with nine institutions, including The Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation, National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi), and The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation and Museum of Art & Photography.
Links to note: