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The Search for a National Art

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, there was a strong connection between art and nationalism. Many painters developed a style that was considered both modern and Indian. A new Indian style of art emerged.


The Art of Raja Ravi Varma

Raja Ravi Varma


Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was born in Kilimanoor Palace as the son of Umamba Thampuratti and Neelakandan Bhattathiripad. At the age of seven years he started drawing on the palace walls using charcoal. His uncle Raja Raja Varma noticed the talent of the child and gave preliminary lessons on painting.

  • At the age of 14, he was taught water painting by the palace painter.

  • After 3 years Theodor Jenson, a British painter taught him oil painting.

  • Most of Ravi Varma paintings are based on Hindu epic stories and characters.

  • In 1873 he won the First Prize at the Madras Painting Exhibition.

  • In 1873 he won the first prize at the Vienna Exhibition.

  • Raja Ravi Varma was one of the first artists who tried to create a style that was both modern and national.

He painted scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. During the 1880s, Ravi Varma’s mythological paintings became the rage among Indian princes and art collectors, who filled their palace galleries with his works.

Raja Ravi Varma’s Paintings



Sita in Lanka

Scene from Ramayana​

Bheema oath

Lord Rama Conquers Varuna


As his paintings became very popular, Ravi Varma set up a picture production team and Printing press on the outskirts of Bombay. Here colour prints of his religious paintings were mass produced. Even the poor could now buy these cheap prints.

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