Varma, Raja Ravi (1848-1906) by Scholes, Robert

Raja Ravi Varma (1848 – 1906) Raja Ravi Varma was born in Kilimanoor Palace as the son of Umamba Thampuratti and Neelakandan Bhattathiripad. At the age of seven years he started drawing on the palace walls using charcoal. His uncle Raja Raja Varma noticed the talent of the child and gave preliminary lessons on painting. At the age of 14, Ayilyam Thirunal Maharaja took him to Travancore Palace and he was taught water painting by the palace painter Rama Swamy Naidu. After 3 years Theodor Jenson, a British painter taught him oil painting. Most of his paintings are based on Hindu epic stories and characters. In 1873 he won the First Prize at the Madras Painting Exhibition. He became a world famous Indian painter after winning in 1873 Vienna Exhibition. He also manufactured oleographic reproductions of his art, which are described by a gallery in this way: Ravi Verma was the scion of the Travancore family and was one of the earliest pioneers of the modernist, figurative idiom. Working during the late 19th century, Verma made scores of paintings and his renditions of Indian Gods and Goddesses became the definitive portraits for millions of Indians. His cheaply priced but beautifully printed oelographs, at his ultra-modern German press in Lonavla, adorned the homes of Indians all over the country. For years, he was derided as a Calender artist but some years ago the collectors discovered him and his originals now sell for huge sums of money. Writing in for April 16th, 1914 , Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy made this observation about Indian art: The New Age (NA 14:24:762) [The PreRaphaelites] preferred Giotto to Raphael, because they saw that Raphael was vulgar; we likewise have the intelligence to recognize that Ravi Varma was vulgar (ten thousand times more so than Raphael), but we have not felt as yet a truly primitive impulse to the creation of significant form.

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