Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was born in Kilimanoor, a small town in Kerala. As a child, Ravi Varma would draw on the walls using charcoal and it was at the age of 14 that Ayilyam Thirunal Maharaja took him to the Travancore Palace where he was taught painting by the palace painter Rama Swamy Naidu. Three years later, he studied under the British painter Theodor Jenson.
The techniques learned under these teachers allowed Ravi Varma to explore the interplay of light and shade, of merging the aesthetic notions of the West and the East, and it was his understanding of the epics that allowed Ravi Varma to bring these mythological characters home, allowing us to see them outside the temple walls.
Ravi Varma is probably best known for his paintings and later his oleographs of the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
To know more about Raja Ravi Varma and the Ramayana, read the essay by Sreetama Ray in our ‘Articles and Essays’ section.
Also: Raja Ravi Varma – Painter of Colonial India by Rupka Chawla (Mapin, 2010)