India's First Great Modern Artist
A portrait painter of the royals; a storyteller of epics; a print-maker for the masses: Raja Ravi Varma has come to be known as one of the greatest Indian artists.
As an artist, Ravi Varma fused two styles together: European art's technical and aesthetic knowledge, and the emotional sensibilities and storytelling from Indian art.
But what else is there to know? Scroll on to learn 5 key facts...
Raja Ravi Varma (2018-03-10) by Rukmini VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation
1. The painting which started his official career
In 1870, he was offered his first commission for a painting - a family portrait of Kizakke Palat Krishnan Menon, a sub-judge of the Calicut Court.
The Kizakke Palat Krishna Menon Family (1870) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection
2. Indian Representation, Overseas
Ravi Varma was honoured an invitation to the World’s Columbian Exhibition at Chicago in 1893, where Swami Vivekananda gave his now well-known speech. Ravi Varma showcased ten of his paintings there.
Postcard:World's Columbian Exposition (1893)The Strong National Museum of Play
3. The People's Press
In 1894, he established the Ravi Varma Fine Arts Lithographic Press. This kicked off a print movement of colour lithographs in India. Reproductions eventually made their way into homes, now that art could be 'owned' by anyone!
Lithographic Press Lever (2019) by Vikas UrsOriginal Source: Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village, Manipal, Karnataka, India
4. International Reach
German printer Fritz Schleicher, was the technical lead for the Raja Ravi Varma Press when it was established. Even after becoming its owner in 1903, he continued to spread Ravi Varma's prints far and wide.
Master print-maker -Fritz Schleicher (1932) by Y.M. KandnikarOriginal Source: Private Collection
5. Post Modern
Ravi Varma's imageries were popularly used as postcards, in calendars, incorporated into advertisements, inspired matchbox labels, woven as textile, and have influenced many generations of artists since!
Textile label produced for Best & Co. Ltd., Madras, depicting the Birth of Shakuntala (19th to 20th centuries) by Unknown Maker(s)Museum of Art & Photography