Raja Ravi Varma was born in Kerala in the year 1848. He grew up to become an artist and a painter. He was married to Rani Bhageerathi who was twelve years old at the age of 18. She belonged to a royal family. They had five children. His youngest son also went on to become an artist after studying at the JJ School of Arts, Mumbai.
Raja Ravi Varma is still known as India’s greatest artist for his art and its aesthetic and social reasons. They were a mix of Indian sensibility and European techniques. His painting evolves around the ancient Puranas, i.e., mythological stories including Indian epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Not only was is he considered as a prominent painter for his fusion painting style, but Varma is also considered responsible for taking Indian art to the world. Just as Indian laymen enjoyed the simplicity of his paintings, the Europeans art lovers enjoyed his technique.
Varma lived in an era when people of the lower caste were not allowed inside the temples in India. His art portrayed Hindu goddesses and gods, which gave the lower caste a hint of how their deities looked. Many of his paintings highlighted women from the South of India who’s beauty was admired by all. While some people also raised their voice against him painting women, beautifully and sensually, he managed to bring about an improvement in the awareness and knowledge about art among the Indian society. Varma also made lithographs affordable so that the poor too could access it, which made him known in every household and captured everybody’s heart. He was honoured for his service towards the public interest with the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal Gold Medal by Lord Curzon.
Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings are classified into three types: portraits, portrait-based compositions and theatrical compositions (based on legends and myths), for which he became the most renowned. He gave an insight into these mythological stories to those who were not fortunate enough to read or hear them elsewhere.
Due to his immense contribution towards Indian art, an award was instituted by the Kerala Government, which was named the ‘Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram’. This award was given to those who proved their excellence in culture and art. There is also a college established in Kerala in honour of this great artist. In the year 1873, he was internationally recognized when he won the 1st prize at the Vienna Art Exhibition.
As quoted in The Genius of Ravi Varma by Kamat’s Potpourri, “Ravi Varma is not only among India’s greatest artists but also a great patriot. His depiction of the beauty of the Indian woman is unequalled in Indian art.” Kamat goes on to state that when Mysore’s art gallery was getting renovated, he got the opportunity to photograph Varma’s paintings. His joy was beyond bounds. He said that over a period of time, he was witness to various fine-print replications of the great artist’s paintings and has tried to capture or photograph the eloquence of his art.
At Tibu Comics, we are proud of Raja Ravi Varma and other Indian artists who paved the way for artists like us.