Years back, Raja of Travancore decided to sell a mad elephant that has already lost his control. We assume that no one will be willing to buy such an elephant. But an elephant lover who was mad in elephant love bought that elephant with excitement. Not only did he buy that elephant but also brought that elephant to Kilimanoor Palace, the mansion where he stays. He treated it well. Do you know who this elephant lover was? He was none other than the great painter Raja Ravi Varma. Not only painting, elephants are also his weakness. Another elephant incident - King of Mysore, Chamarajendra, pleased by the pictures presented by Ravi Varma, gifted him with elephants. He asked Ravi Varma to choose two elephants from his collection as gift.

Though he was born as a prince and spend his life in royal family, Travancore, he didn’t bind himself with that royal life. Instead he visualized the beauty of nature through his paintings, adding his own flavours of life experiences and knowledge through books. Thus he was known as ‘Painter among Rajas’ and ‘Raja among painters’. Till then, it was believed that painting was the monopoly of Europeans. But through his distinct style, he customized painting to Indian culture as well. Many Hindu Mythological idols and beauties were reborn through his talent and dedication. He created a new way of presenting Indian Puranas and epics giving a new appealing experience of an already existing culture. It’s his great achievement and significance.

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He conducted many experiments with oil paintings that were almost new among Indian artists. He found the possibilities of three-dimensional art in paintings. By giving colours to Hindu mythological idols, he earned a lot of admirers, not only in India but all over the world. Each creation brought him more popularity every time. He conducted exhibitions all over the world and made every Keralite proud.

Most recently his 106th death anniversary ceremony was conducted. Through this article, I am giving a brief note on world’s famous artists related to painting and a few interesting facts about Raja Ravi Varma as well.

Raja Ravi Varma was an artist from his childhood

He was born in Kilimanoor palace of ancient Travancore (Known as Thiruvithankoor in Malayalam) as the son of Ezhumavil Neelakandan Bhattathiripad and Uma Ambabhai in the year 1848, April 29. He started drawing pictures on palace walls before 2 years old. But his talent was noticed by his uncle Raja raja varma who was the painter of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. So, Raja Ravi Varma learned primary knowledge of drawings through his uncle. Later he studied abroad.

He learnt oil painting from artists of Thanchavoor and Madhura and later, more technical knowledge from Dutch painter Theodor Jenson when he returned back to Thiruvananthapuram. It paved a new path of his career towards oil painting. He won an art exhibition of Madras in the year 1873 and an international exhibition of Vienna in the same year. He was just 28 and within this short period he became very famous.

His drawings portraying Hindu mythological figures drew more attention. Most notable works include Hamsavum Damayanthiyum (Swan and Damayanthi), Draupathi Veerada sadassil (Draupathi in Veerada) and Darbhamuna konda Shakunthala. He even portrayed his daughter in one of his drawings with his grand daughter Sethu Lekshmi Bhai, who reined Travancore later. She was the mother of last king of Travancore, Shri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma.  He was not only a painter, but also a poet and ‘Manasa Yatra’ is a literature piece describing river Narmada.

A new post office opened for Ravi Varma that time

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Raja Ravi Varma was very popular and he used to get a lot of appreciations from his admirers all over the world through postal letters. Seeing this, a new postal office was established in Kilimanoor and that time, communication was only through postal letters.

When he became a diabetic patient in 1906, his admirers all over the world were eager to know about his health condition and they communicated through letters. His condition was reported even in international newspapers and Reuters – an international press reporting agency camped in small village to know about his condition so that he can timely report his condition in their newspapers.

When his younger brother C.Raja raja varma died it was a great shock to him. His younger brother was his right hand till then. Yet he involved himself in his art to forget everything. But in the year 1906, October 2 he left the world to a colourless canvass for ever.

da Vinci and Mona Lisa

If some one asks, who holds the most beautiful and mysterious smile, no one will find difficulty in answering this question – Mona Lisa and that mysterious smile was created by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. He was an Italian known as ‘Renaissance man’. He is considered as the most intelligent person born till now and there is no subject in the world in which he was not interested. Engineer, botanist, mathematician, architecture, painting, vasthu, music composer, body science – he was an embodiment of all these talents. He was born in Italy in the year 1952 and his first best picture was ‘Annunciation’ of 1472. ‘Last Supper’ portrayed on the wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie of Milan is still considered a world class. He died on 18 February 1564 at the age of 88.

Michelangelo – the unforgettable artist

He is still considered almost equal to Leonardo da Vinci. His life history was written twice while he was alive. His famous works are Pietta and David. He was not even 30 when both these works were completed. Most famous wall pictures belong to Michelangelo. History of Bible drawn at Sistine Chapel of Rome and different scenes of Christian principles drawn on walls made him immortal. He was born in Italy. He was a good poet and did many architectural projects as well. He died in February 18, 1564.

Goya – the artist of dark pictures

Francisco Goya – he found true colours of life in dark shades and pictured them on the canvass using his imagination and creativity. He was born in Spain in 1976, March 30. His works are considered as a combination of last stages of ancient art and beginning of modern art. Such blends can be easily noticed in his works. He was the official painter of the Royal family of Spain and when a serious fever left him dumb, he became depressed and it deeply influenced his works as well. All his works later belonged to a dark category touching everyone’s soul – showing true colours of life. He painted 11 pictures, collectively known as ‘Fantasy and Inventions’ which marked a significant change in his style of drawing and are considered as darker subjects. It became the stepping stone for a new creation of art on canvass – Expressionist. ‘Saturn Devouring His Sons’, drawn in the year 1819 is considered as a picturisation of Modern man.

van Gogh – the man who lived in poverty

He is considered as the master of Post Impressionism. But this great artist lived his life in poverty. Though his works are considered most rare and priceless gifts towards the field of paintings, he didn’t get much recognition when he was alive. When a self portrait was sold in the year 1998 for 71.5 crore dollars, it was a record for the most expensive painting till then. Use of colour shades, expansion of colours and new dimensions given to objects give Vincent van Gogh’s pictures new meanings. ‘The starry night’, ‘Sunflowers’, ‘Potato eaters’ and ‘Cross over wheat fields’ are his most famous works.

Pablo Picasso

‘Guernica’ – the work that pictured true shades of war and its after affects, is still considered as a classic. Picasso captured the misery of poor victims of wars in this famous work. Still it’s shown as a symbol of peace against war. He was the most influential painter of 20th century. He was born in Spain and he used German’s bomb explosion in the place Guernica to draw that wonderful painting. He was born in Malaga of Spain in the year 1881. In 1907, his work ‘Women of Avigonanin’ marked the beginning of Cubism. It’s a rare work of splitting the real shapes and later joining them in a special way to create magic on canvas.

Salrvador Dali

His paintings, appearance and life – all were just mysterious. He was born in Catalonia of Spain in the year 1904 and he introduced ‘Sirrealism’ to modern art. He was a genius of great imaginary powder and creativity. He pondered much visualization similar to dreams and wonderlands in his works.

Persistence of Memory’ – completed in the year 1931 is still considered as a classic. ‘Crucifixion’ showing crucifixion of Jesus and ‘Swans reflecting Elephants’ are also famous among his works.

M.F.Husain

Last, but not the least, let me say a few words about this great painter of modern times. Through out his life he has seen a lot of appreciations as well as controversies from Indian people.

Through this article, I have given a brief summary of great persons related to paintings. Yes, paintings are most appreciated if they are related to life. That’s the reason why most of the works of these artists are still considered world class.


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