Raja Ravi Varma: Legendary Artist Known for his Indian & European Style Paintings

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: Thefamouspeople.com)

Raja Ravi Varma is a legendary artist of India known for his amazing Indian paintings made with European art techniques. Raja Ravi Varma is considered to be amongst the greatest painters in history of Indian art for a number of aesthetic and broader social reasons.  Varma, is one of the few painters who have managed to accomplish a beautiful unison of the Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art. He is also known for making affordable lithographs of his paintings. Varma made his lithographs available to public which enhanced his reach and influence as an artist and public figure.  In particular, his depictions of Hindu deities and episodes from the epics and Puranas have received profound acceptance from the public and are found, often as objects of worship, across the length and breadth of India. The most popular as well as impressive paintings of Ravi Varma includes the one depicting episodes from the story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala and that of Nala and Damayanti from the Mahabharata.

Shakuntala- Dushayanta – Painting by Raja Ravi Varma

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(Image Courtesy: WordPress)


Raja Ravi Varma was born on 29th April 1848 in Kilimanoor Palace as the son of Umamba Thampuratti and Neelakandan Bhattathiripad. Umamba Bayi was a poet and writer of some talent, and her work Parvati Swayamvaram was published by Varma after her death. While Ravi’s father Neelakandan was a scholar in Sanskrit and Ayurveda.  The inborn talent of Raja Ravi Varma started showing at a very young age, so his parents sent him to study under the patronage of Ayilyam Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore at the age of 14years. Raja Ravi Varma got married to Rani Bhageerathi Bayi of Mavelikara Royal House. He spent the later years of his life in Mysore, Baroda and a number of other cities in the country. This exposure helped him in broadening his outlook. At the same time, he was able to expand as well as sharpen his skills and evolve into a mature painter. He left for the holy abode on 2nd October 1906, leaving behind his legacy of amazing paintings.

Maharashtian Lady Carrying Fruits- Raja Ravi Varma

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: Pinterest)

The Artistic Aspect:

Raja Ravi Varma’s passion for art can be seen in his paintings. He received very efficient training, first in the traditional art of Thanjavoor and then in European art. He received guidance, first, from the palace painter Rama Swamy Naidu and then, from Theodor Jenson, a British painter. He is known for mainly three types of paintings- Portraits; Portraits based Composition and Theatrical Compositions based on myths and legends.

The Theatrical compositions based on myths and legends are the most renowned art from for which Raja Ravi Varma is known for.

Galaxy of Musicians- Raja Ravi Varma Lithography

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: The R.R.V. Heritage Foundation)

The Famous Work of Art:

Towards the end of the 19th century, when there was a lack of vitality in Indian painting, Raja Ravi Varma was the one of the few artists who re-introduced Indian subjects in his artwork. Though, at times Raja Ravi Varma is criticised for being too showy in his paintings. His paintings are also condemned for overshadowing traditional Indian art forms, especially the ones depicting Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Critics have also disapproved of his rejecting the traditional models of representation of deities and reducing them to the level of mortals.

Some notable works of Raja Ravi Varma are:

A family of beggars

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: Artslant)

Arjuna & Subhadra Painting

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle)

Tamil Girl With Ladder

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: Suryanaidus)

Shakuntala Love Letter

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: Pinterest)

Recognition & Achievements:

In recognition of his enormous contribution towards Indian art, the government of Kerala has instituted an award in the name of “Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram”. This award is given to the individuals who show considerable promise the field of art & culture. He also received international recognition in 1873 when he won the first prize for his paintings at the Vienna Art Exhibition. Many fabulous paintings of Raja Ravi Varma are housed at Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara. 

Raja Ravi Varma Painting at Laxmi Vilas

raja ravi verma
(Image Courtesy: Carvecookclick)



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