|Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss various contributions of Raja Ravi Varma to Indian art. Conclusion. Way forward.|
Raja Ravi Varma, also known as ‘The Father of Modern Indian Art’ was an Indian painter of the 18th century who attained recognition as a painter. He is considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art. Recognizing his feat, Viceroy Lord Curzon had honoured him with the ‘Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal’ for his service in the furtherance of public interest.
Contributions of Raja Ravi Varma to Indian art:
- European fusion: His works are held to be among the best examples of the fusion of European techniques with a purely Indian sensibility. While continuing the tradition and aesthetics of Indian art, his paintings employed the latest European academic art techniques of the day.
- Secular paintings: Raja Ravi Varma, gave birth to secular-sacred images that can even today can be found in puja rooms, calendar advertisements, tiles in public spaces, flex banners and all kinds of packaging for products ranging from soap to incense.
- Challenging caste and class hierarchies: Raja Varma paintings challenged caste and class hierarchies as the circulation of these images broke down the idea that they were meant to rest solely within temples or in private collections. He was the first artist to avail his works to the mass market, irrespective of their status in the society. This greatly enhanced his reach and influence as a painter and public figure.
- Depiction of women: He often modelled Hindu Goddesses on South Indian women. Ravi Varma is particularly noted for his paintings depicting episodes from the story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala, and Nala and Damayanti, from the Mahabharata. His most famous work was painting ‘A Lady Playing Swarbat’.
- Depiction of social realities: Raja Varma played an important role in depicting social and economic realities of the society. For instance his painting depicting ‘A Family of Beggars’ represented the sorry state of Indian economics.
- Insights to Indian mythology: Through his paintings, he gave an insight of the famous mythological stories to those who were not fortunate enough to hear or read them. Varma’s work helped in recounting the ancient Indian ideal of healthy beauty and enjoyment of life.
- Oil painting: He was one of the first Indian artists to use oil paints and to master the art of lithographic reproduction of his work. In addition to incidents in Hindu mythology, Varma painted many portraits of both Indians and British in India.
Raja Ravi Varma was one of the first artists who created such a modern and Indian style. He mustered the western art of oil painting and realistic life study but painted themes from Indian mythology. Ravi Varma’s representation of mythological characters has become a part of the Indian imagination of the epics.