Raja Ravi Varma

Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906) was a painter from minor royalty in what is today Kerala state in southwest India. From a very early age, he took to painting, and was encouraged by many in an artistic family. After apparently being rejected as a court painter at the age of thirteen because his skin was too dark, he kept learning from visiting Indian and English painters. In his mid-twenties he won a prize at an exhibition in Chennai. From then on, patronage by successive British Governor- Generals and Indian feudal rulers was assured. Ravi Varma’s fusion of Western perspective, the new medium of oil painting, Hindu mythology and photography continue to have mass appeal to Indian audiences today. In 1892 they took the bold step of investing the enormous sum of Rs. 80,000 in a printing press (at the time, Ravi Varma was earning Rs. 1500 from a reluctant-to-pay Maharajah for a portrait that took weeks to execute). Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917), an early Parsi Independence leader from Mumbai, is said to have arranged for Germans to come over and bring the steam-driven lithographic press with them. The Press was sold to the Germans in 1903, and they received rights to reproduce some of Ravi Varma's most famous paintings, which they did in many forms, including the postcards shown below.

Damayanti

Damayanti

Damayanti was the wife of Nala, the king of Nishadha Kingdom

[Original caption] Being separated from her husband Nala, the fair Damayanti enters her fathers place, yet feeling deeply for her husband, she is represented as sitting in a moon light, her

Mohini

Mohini

[Original caption] The Goddess of beauty sitting on a swing [end]

This image by Ravi Varma was one of his most successful in calendar art. Shown here she is perfect and ordinary, ideal yet accessible.

Sita-Vanvas

Sita-Vanvas

[Original caption] Sita Vanawasa :– Sita, when captured by Ravan, the king of Lanka, was carried and kept in a forest named "Ashok-van" by him, and he ordered demons to watch her. This picture represents that Sita sat thinking under a tree. [end]

Tatawadha

Tatawadha

[Original caption] Jatayu-Vadha: - Ravana, while carrying away Sita, is being attacked by the bird Jatayu, with whom he fights. [end]

Jatayu, the holy bird, lived in Panchavati close to the hut of Rama.

Gangavataran

Gangavataran

[Original caption] Shankar receives the river Ganga on his head in compliance with the prayers of Bhageeratha. [end]

This image is from a famous painting by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906), one of India's most important painters.

Gajagauri

Gajagauri

[Verso] Gaja-Gauri :- Goddess Parwati. [end]

From a painting by Raja Ravi Varma, Parvati is the Hindu goddess of fertility, love, beauty, marriage, children, devotion, divine strength and power.

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