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Indian Heritage & Culture

Raja Ravi Varma

  • 29 Apr 2020
  • 2 min read

Why in News

29th April is the birth anniversary of the famed Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906).

  • He is remembered for giving Indians their western, classical representations of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Key Points

  • Early days and training:
    • Varma was born into an aristocratic family in Travancore (Kerala).
    • At the age of 14, Varma was patronised by Ayilyam Thirunal, the then ruler of Travancore, and went on to receive training in watercolours from Ramaswamy Naidu, the royal painter.
  • Contributions:
    • Made around 7,000 paintings.
    • Apart from painting Hindu mythological figures, Varma also made portraits of many Indians as well as Europeans.
    • Varma worked on both portrait and landscape paintings, and is considered among the first Indian artists to use oil paints.
    • He continues to be regarded as the most important representative of the Europeanised school of painting in India.
  • Lithographic press: He mastered the reproduction of his work on the lithographic press– through which his paintings spread far and wide.
    • Lithographic press is a method of printing based on the principle that oil and water do not mix.
    • Paintings were earlier sent to Germany and Austria to be lithographed.
    • Varma set up his own printing press in Maharashtra — first in Ghatkopar and eventually in Lonavala in 1894.
    • Through his printing press, Varma’s paintings travelled into the prayer and living rooms of working-class homes.
  • Famous works: Damayanti Talking to a Swan, Shakuntala Looking for Dushyanta, Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair, and Shantanu and Matsyagandha.
  • Awards and Honours:
    • In 1904, the British colonial government awarded Varma with the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal.
    • In 2013, a crater on the planet Mercury was named in his honour.

Source: IE

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