Raja Ravi Varma: The artist who painted India

Raja Ravi Varma was born into aristocracy and closely related to the royal house of Travancore. Having shown his inclination towards artistry at quite a young age, he received training under the tutelage of Rama Swami Naidu and by Dutch portraitist Theodor Jenson. The effects of his two teachers helped to foster in him a style that combines European techniques and Indian aesthetics. He skilfully used the subtle brush strokes of European oil painting to add unexplored shades to Indian folklore and sagas.


He is remembered for his depictions of Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. His paintings are predominantly those of women and reflect the lives of middle class Indian women- a subject quite revolutionary in its own right.

But his career, like every renaissance artist, was clouded in controversy. Often condemned by the conservatives for his sensual depictions, Raja Ravi Varma faced social opposition by Indian traditionalists. But this did not cast a shadow on his mastery of art and his fame worldwide. Still considered to be the reformer of the Indian provincial art, Ravi Varma’s paintings are recognised as great specimens of a fusion art by international experts. 


His legacy is preserved in the in the Laxmi Vilas Palace where many of his graceful paintings are displayed for the public. The Kerala government has even bestowed him with a crater on the moon his name for the unmatched contributions that he has made to Indian art.

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