Raja Ravi Varma: Restoring A Master's Glory

This story documents the restoration process adopted by conservationist and restorer Rupika Chawla through a short film scripted and directed by Anandana Kapoor.

By Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

A film by Fulbright scholar Dr Anandana Kapur

An authority on Ravi Varma’s art with a deep understanding of his works, Rupika Chawla explains the need for preservation, the ethics of restoration and the delicate nature of conservation of these classic paintings.

Rupika Chawla (2019-04) by Hemanth MisraRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Rupika Chawla

Rupika Chawla is well-known art restorer, conservator and historian. She has restored several Ravi Varma paintings at her studio and also gives training in conservation.

Together with artist A. Ramachandran, she had organised the seminal exhibition on Raja Ravi Varma in 1993 at the National Museum, New Delhi, bringing about a strong revival of the artist and his work.

Lady With A Fruit, Raja Ravi Varma, 1894, Original Source: National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
HH Sri Janaki Subbamma Bai Sahib, Rani of Pudukkottai, Raja Ravi Varma, 1879, Original Source: Pudukkottai Family Collection
Shakuntala's Impending Calamity, Raja Ravi Varma, 1890, Original Source: Government Museum, Chennai, India
Decking the Bride, Raja Ravi Varma, 1893, Original Source: Sri Chitra Art Gallery. On Loan to the Raj Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram
Sita in Ashoka Grove, Raja Ravi Varma, 1894, Original Source: Private Collection
Radha In The Moonlight, Raja Ravi Varma, 1890, Original Source: Private Collection
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Some of Raja Ravi Varma's works in museums and belonging to private collections. 

Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation has restored several paintings by the master artist, all belonging to private collectors. The intention is to document and restore as many works by Ravi Varma as possible. This documentary features some of the most important works that have passed through the Foundation's hands and reached the restoration table of Rupika Chawla.

Dr Anandana Kapur (2021-08) by Suraaj AjithakumarRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Dr Anandana Kapur

A Fulbright filmmaker, award-winning director and educationist, Dr. Anandana Kapur directed this documentary to commemorate Raja Ravi Varma’s 173rd birth anniversary on April 29, 2021.

"The iconography and compositions of Ravi Varma's work continue to inspire creative artists. Each of us, among the crew, had a painting we admired. So, it was a pleasure to see original works up close and to be in dialogue about them." - Anandana Kapur

"We were also fortunate to be able to document how an original work is interpreted for restoration. The layers of dust contain many stories within them. Finally, when the underlying work is revealed you are left marvelling at the luminosity of Varma's strokes."

Raja Ravi Varma: Restoring A Master's Glory (2021-04) by Raja Ravi Varma Heritage FoundationRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

"Conservation and documentary making are similar in their instinct to peel back the traces of time to glimpse the essential. Both practices need technical felicity to preserve details and each benefits from making visible the ideological choices that shape access to cultural artefacts."

Credits: Story

Special Thanks: Rupika Chawla & Dr. Anandana Kapur
Content & Resources: Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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