Explained: How Raja Ravi Varma, an artist of the royals, took his art to the masses

Generally referred to as the father of present day Indian art, Raja Ravi Varma is commonly regarded for his sensible portrayal of Indian gods and goddesses. When he majorly painted for the royalty, he is also credited for having artwork to the masses with his prints and oleographs. On April 6, one particular of his considerable paintings, Draupadi Vastraharan, will be heading under the hammer for the initial time. Approximated to fetch in between Rs 15 and Rs 20 crore, the canvas depicts the disrobing of Draupadi in a scene from the Mahabharata. We choose a glance at what assisted form Varma’s art and how he eventually took it to the masses.

Formative a long time and influences

Raja Ravi Varma was born in April 1848 in Kilimanoor, Kerala, to a relatives which was extremely near to the royals of Travancore. At a younger age, he would draw animals and day-to-day scenes on the partitions in indigenous colors designed from pure elements these as leaves, flowers and soil. His uncle, Raja Raja Varma, observed this and inspired his expertise. Patronised by Ayilyam Thirunal, the then ruler of Travancore, he learnt watercolour painting from the royal painter Ramaswamy Naidu, and later on trained in oil painting from Dutch artist Theodore Jensen.

Explained: How Raja Ravi Varma, an artist of the royals, took his art to the masses

How he became an artist of the royals

Varma grew to become a significantly sought-just after artist for the aristocrats and was commissioned quite a few portraits in late 19th century. Arguably, at one particular point, he grew to become so well known that the Kilimanoor Palace in Kerala opened a publish office environment thanks to the sheer variety of portray requests that would appear in for him. He travelled across India thoroughly, for perform and inspiration.

Subsequent a portrait of Maharaja Sayajirao of Baroda, he was commissioned 14 Puranic paintings for the Durbar Corridor of the new Lakshmi Vilas Palace at Baroda. Depicting Indian culture, Varma borrowed from episodes of Mahabharata and Ramayana for the same. He also obtained patronage from quite a few other rulers, such as the Maharaja of Mysore and Maharaja of Udaipur.

As his reputation soared, the artist received an award for an exhibition of his paintings at Vienna in 1873. He was also awarded three gold medals at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Who were being his protagonists?

Considered to have manufactured additional than 7,000 paintings prior to his demise at the age of 58 in 1906, Varma mixed European realism with Indian sensibilities. While he travelled to discover his subjects, portray the Indian royals and aristocrats, his inspiration came from varied sources — from Indian literature to dance drama. Considerably of his celebrated art also borrows seriously from Indian mythology. In fact, he is typically credited with defining the visuals of Indian gods and goddesses as a result of his relatable and more sensible portrayals typically painted with people as designs. The depictions include things like Lakshmi as the goddess of wealth, Saraswati as the goddess of expertise and knowledge, and Lord Vishnu with his consorts, Maya and Lakshmi.

How he took Indian art to the masses

Raja Ravi Varma aspired to get his artwork to the masses and the intent led him to open a Lithographic Push in Bombay in 1894. The notion, reportedly, arrived from Sir T Madhava Rao, former Dewan of Travancore and afterwards Baroda, in a letter exactly where he pointed out to Varma that given that it was difficult for him to meet up with the significant need for his perform, it would be excellent for him to send out some of his choose performs to Europe and have them produced as oleographs. Varma, as a substitute, selected to create a printing push of his personal. The first photo printed at Varma’s press was reportedly The Start of Shakuntala, followed by quite a few mythological figures and saints this sort of as Adi Shankaracharya.

In 1901, Ravi Varma marketed the printing push to a German lithographer, Fritz Schleicher, who continued to manufacture the lithographs. The level of popularity of the prints, in simple fact, ongoing till modern day occasions, with Varma’s style acting as inspiration for artists who illustrated the popular comedian e-book series Amar Chitra Katha.

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