Raja Ravi Varma is unquestionably the most famous of all Indian painting artists. He is regarded as the Godfather of Indian painting. When it comes to depiction of beauty of Indian women on the canvas, there is no other soul that can replace him.
Raja Ravi Varma was born in 1848 as Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran, in Travancore, Kerala. At the age of 7, Ravi Varma started to draw on the walls of the Kilimanoor Palace. His parents soon realised his talent and asked the palace painter Rama Swami Naidu to teach the basics of watercolour painting. Later, Ravi Varma also got some formal training in oil painting from the Dutch artist, Theodore Jensen.
He travelled to different parts of India including Mysore, Baroda and Madurai to learn more about paintings and painting techniques. These travels made him a better artist.
Ravi Varma created mainly three types of paintings, portraits, compositions based on portraits and dramatic compositions based on mythologies. Although Ravi Varma’s mythological paintings are more famous, the portraits and compositions based on portraits made him the most famous artist that he is known today.
His paintings are radiant and natural. He had an impeccable understanding of colours and it helped him in creating paintings that are quite different from other artists of same period. Ravi Varma also had a great knack for depicting human expressions, which are evident in most of his paintings.
Some of his famous mythological paintings include ‘Nala Damayanti’, ‘Jatayu Vadh’. When it comes to portrait paintings, ‘The Maharashtrian Lady’, ‘The Milkmaid’ are some of the famous ones.
Today, his paintings are nothing short of a national treasure. Even the modern day artists seem awestruck by the charisma of his paintings.
Major Exhibitions and Recognition
Ravi Varma is said to be the artist who took Indian art painting to the world arena. One of the main reasons for this claim is his gold medal winning stint at an exhibition held at Vienna in 1873. Some of his paintings were also sent to the iconic World’s fair, held in Chicago in 1893. There too, Ravi Varma won two gold medals.At Madras Painting Exhibition, he won gold medal for 2 straight years, 1873 and 1874. In 1904, Lord Curzon awarded Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal to Ravi Varma, honouring his achievements.
Today, most of his paintings are on display at different art galleries and museums all over the India. If you want to stand face to face with some of the fine works of Raja Ravi Varma, Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara is the place to visit.
His popularity in the country, especially in the art world, is unparalleled. Some of the painters of his era remember him as a great artist and a great human being.
Abanindranath Tagore was once quoted saying:
It is rare to come across men like him, artists like him, lovers of India like him.
In this page, you can see some of the popular art works from this great Raja of art.