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Raja Ravi Varma

Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was an Indian painter who achieved recognition for his depiction of scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.


Ravi Varma was born in the royal palace of Kilimanoor, which is situated 25 miles from Thiruvananthapuram, in Kerala, India. Ravi Varma showed talent at a young age. He got the patronage of Ayilyam Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore when he was 14 years of age, and was taught by the palace painter Rama Swamy Naidu. He was later taught oil painting by a British painter Theodor Jenson. The power and forceful expression of European painting fascinated Ravi Varma, which came across to him as strikingly contrasting to stylized Indian artwork.

Raja Ravi Varma came to widespread acclaim after he won an award for an exhibition of his paintings at Vienna in 1873. He travelled throughout India in search of subject for his paintings. He often modeled Hindu Goddesses on South Indian women, whom he considered beautiful and had met. Ravi Varma is particularly noted for his paintings depicting episodes from the story of Dushyanta and Shakuntala, and Nala and Damayanti, from the Mahabharata. Ravi Varma's representation of mythological characters has become a part of the Indian imagination of the epics. He was and still is criticized for being too showy and sentimental in his style and depiction. However the general people at large seem to like his works.

Raja Ravi Varma is most remembered for his paintings of beautiful sari-women who were very shapely and graceful. He stayed in the city of Bombay in Maharashtra for some years and drew many a beautiful maharashtrian women. After a successful career as a painter, Raja Ravi Varma died in (1906) at the age of 58.

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