Raja Ravi Varma | Biography | Life | Paintings
A member of the ruling family of Kerala, he subscribed to the ethos of his class. He glorified the national—the mythical and the religious. In his paintings, the moral got precedence over everything else including stylistic expression.
He found his model, both thematic and stylistic, in French Neo-classicism and his art contained messages of a high moral order tailored to suit the quest for national identity in every sphere of Indian life. It is not easy to define Ravi Varma’s unique style, nor to describe, by words, the proper means of acquiring it.
He profited by experience whereas most people are not because of their incapacity in finding their object, but from not knowing what object to pursue.
Ravi Varma broadly followed the technique of the British academic tradition then being promoted in India and endeavored to attain dexterity in imitating objects.
He also did not copy nature too closely. He must have realized that a mere copier of nature could never produce anything to uplift or ‘warm the heart’ of a viewer.
In any case imitation of nature has never been a mode of expression in Indian art. Ravi Varma’s paintings possess their own splendor despite the unkind criticism leveled against him by some enthusiastic promoters of today’s fashionable styles.
Such criticism is unfounded as, in fact, his academic skills were duly recognized when he was conferred a prestigious award for his Sairandhri by the Bombay Art Society in 1891.
He represented India at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, one of the grandest international expositions of the nineteenth century. He was greatly patronized by Sayaji Rao Gaekwad of Baroda and rulers of other princely states.
His Ravana is a haughty muscleman minus the extra heads and the flying chariot. The episode was used as an allegory of the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Instead of endeavoring to amuse the viewer with minute neatness, Ravi Varma attempted, in his paintings, to convey his ideas.
And instead of superficially appeasing the viewer, he strove to captivate his imagination. He gained popularity by reaching out to the people by choosing themes that were known to them and infusing the same with poetic and philosophical quality.
He obviously had his own idea of what constituted ideal beauty and sought to create that image which he conceptualized in his mind from the description in the literary sources, such as that of Sarasvati, Darnayanti or Judith.
Out of common figures, he conveyed an abstract idea. And in what may seem a paradox, he learned to design naturally by drawing figures, unlike any standard type.
List of major works:
A list of the prominent works of Ravi Varma.
28.3D painting of The Mysore king in a horse (available at the Mysore palace)
Books on Raja Ravi Verma:
- Raja Ravi Varma: The Most Celebrated Painter of India (1848-1906)
- Hidden Truth
- Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial India
- Raja Ravi Varma: The Painter Prince
- Raja Ravi Varma
- The Indian Portrait – V: Colonial influence on Raja Ravi Varma and his Contemporaries
- Piramal Art Foundation Raja Ravi Varma Life And Expressions
- RAJA RAVI VARMA THE MOST CELEBRATED PAINTER OF INDIA 1848-1906 VOL 1
- Raja ravi Varma – Oleographs Catalogue
- Raja Ravi Varma
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