RAJA RAVI VARMA : Displaying the Modesty of Women

Oil on Canvas  Raja Ravi Varma
An aristocratic lady coming out
from temple and giving alms.

If only one painter of India is to be chosen for the display of his artworks, he would surely be Raja Ravi Varma. He infused the sense of modernity into the Indian art of Painting.

Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906 AD) got recognition for his masterly painted canvases of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. His subjects were popular mythological scenes from Hindu epics. There are two main epics in the Hindu religion: one is Mahabharata and another is Ramayana. The theme of Raja Ravi Varma's paintings always revolved around two subjects: paintings of women and painting the mythological stories from the epics. He is believed to be the initiator of Modern Indian paintings among the Indian painters.

On seeing his paintings, we would know how wealthy are his decorative details. We would be fascinated by seeing how he painted the gorgeous garments the Indian women put on in ancient and medieval India. The collection of paintings is a treasure of Indian art, along with the great miniature paintings depicted in Hamzanama, which was sponsored by Mughal Emperor Akbar.

The depiction of Hindu Gods and Goddess and the mythological stories were his recurring themes. He had executed his painting skill in epic stories and making the characters alive. In 1873, in recognition of his skill, he won the First Prize at the Madras Painting Exhibition. But his popularity gets the acknowledgement of the whole world when he received the prize at the Vienna Exhibition in 1873. He died in 1906 at the age of 58. Raja Ravi Varma is considered one of the greatest painters in the history of Indian art.

The importance of recovering the customs and the institution of the past thus inaugurating the archaeological approach to art. -- Raja Ravi Varma

The Artist of Mythological Scenes: Modest in behaviour, a perfect religious follower, Raja Ravi Varma was a man of traditions. The logical implication of this could be that 'he would be an artist choosing mythological subjects'.  He did the same. He did it extraordinarily.  He executed infusion of the traditional style of Indian painting with modern dimensions of European art. 

Princess Damayanti Talking
with Royal Swan Raja Ravi Varma
Oil on Canvas  Sri Chitra Art Gallery, 
ThiruvananthapuramKerala.

Raja Ravi Varma paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the masterly adept combination of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art. He took the 'modesty of a woman' as one of the subjects and he was the first Indian artist to depict the grace and modesty of women so beautifully. No physical attractions; no seductive approach. He just painted the modesty.

Raja Ravi Varma first took lessons in watercolour painting. He did it under the guidance of another master painter. Thereafter he had become a disciple of one British artist who was a painter working in oil colours. After starting working in oil, he always painted his canvases by using oil colours. 

Painting Analised: He had extensively used the European style of painting. That came to his help. Look at the painting Princess Damayanti Talking with Royal Swanshown here. It is based on one of the stories of Ramayana. We can see the sharp lining of the figures depicted: the lady and the swan. about the painting skill, the use of bright colours for the figures and subdued for the background, make the figures looking three- dimensional. Remember his learning about the European style of painting.

The painting shown here displays how the master artist had painted the modesty of women through the colours and his masterly brush strokes.  Each painting shows one or another woman-specific emotion expertly executed by Raja Ravi Varma. 

The British administrator Edgar Thurston had sufficiently promoted the art of Raja Ravi Varma. Raja Ravi Varma had received huge acclaim when he got an award for an exhibition of his paintings in Vienna. It was the year 1873. Raja Ravi Varma's paintings were also exhibited in the well-acclaimed exhibitions in the world elsewhere, too. One of such despatches of Raja's artwork was sent to the World's Columbian Exhibition held in Chicago in 1893. Here he was facilitated by three gold medals.

Sri Rama Vanquishing the Sea
Oil on Canvas Raja Ravi Varma 
Sri Jayachama Rajendra Art Gallery, 
Jaganmohan PalaceMysoreKarnataka.

The Artist: Raja Ravi Varma was born in an aristocratic family. His was a Maharaja family, in the city of Travancore. He was a Hindu by birth. He had painted several paintings depicting Hindu Gods and Goddesses

However, he faced several social stigmas related difficulties. It was tough for him to search for appropriate models for his paintings. There was one solace. Being from a royal family, he managed the presence of several attractive women to work for him as the models for his paintings. He generally painted the Goddesses from the great mythological stories of  Ramayana and other Hindu scripture.                      

The Art: The depiction of Hindu Gods and Goddess and other characters of the Indian mythological stories was Ravi Varma's preferred subjects. He had executed his painting skill through the epic stories and their well-known characters like Lord Rama, Sita, and Ravana. Raja Ravi Varma. got recognition for his masterly painted paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the scenes from the epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. His paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the skilful combination of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art.  

If only one painter of India is to be chosen for the display of his work, he would surely be Raja Ravi Varma.   Before he died in 1906 at the age of 58, he had earned enough popularity to make him one of the greatest painters in the history of Indian art. 

 

Raja Ravi Varma
Varma's sister-in-law, Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi (1848–1901) was the Senior Rani of Travancore from 1857 till her death in 1901


Raja Ravi Varma
Varma's sister-in-law, Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi (1848–1901) was the Senior Rani of Travancore from 1857 till her death in 1901


 

Oil on Canvas  
A Royal Lady and Maid in the Moonlight.


The paintings are shown here display how the master artist had displayed the modesty of women through the colours and his masterly brush strokes. The postures of the women models were also traditional. Each painting shows one or another woman-specific emotion, expertly executed by Raja Ravi Varma.  He first took lessons in watercolour. After that, he took formal training and became a disciple of a British oil painter. 

Raja Ravi Varma had painted several portraits of his family members, too. He belonged to a Royal family of Travancore, which is situated in the southern part of India. The two portraits shown here are of Raja Ravi Varma's sister-in-law.  She was known as Rani (queen) Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore.   [All the mages are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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