Raja Ravi Varma: Life History
Raja Ravi Varma (1848 – 1906) of Kilimanoor Palace can be considered a painter whose work represented a turning point in Indian painting. He was born into the princely state of Travancore, Kerala, and began drawing on the palace walls. His uncle recognised the talent on the wall and started to teach him the basics or drawing and painting. From then on Raja Ravi Varma came under the tutelage of other master artists that guided his craft to what it became.
He moved into the Travancore Palace to study under the resident artist who taught him to paint with watercolour. Subsequently a British painter introduced him to oil painting. Raja Ravi Varma used the medium of oil to explore Hindu mythology, nude and semi-nude figures of women draped in saris on canvasses.
Before Raja Ravi Varma, Indian painting depicted flat subjects where bodies and spaces had no depth. Like an echo of the masters of the Italian renaissance, he glorified the body, and like the Dutch masters, he painted beautiful fabrics and materials with striking colour contrasts. Together he brought about an Indian renaissance of his own.
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