RAJA RAVI VARMA DATE OF BIRTH: Raja Ravi Varma is the celebrated Indian painter who is widely known for the harmony of the European realist painting style with Indian imagery. Known as ‘Father of modern Indian art’, he is the greatest painter in the history of India. He is known for painting both – portraits, such as “Ramanadha Rao and Son” and paintings from Indian mythology, such as “Riddhi Siddhi”.
On Varma’s birthday, let’s know some lesser known facts about him:
1. Varma was born on April 29 in the year 1848, in the aristocratic family in Kilimanoor in the former Travancore state of present day Kerala.
2. This prolific painter’s talent was showcased around the age of 7, when he drew everyday scenes and images of animals on the walls.
3. In his youth he used native colors made from leaves, flowers, tree bark and soil. His uncle Raja Raja Varma supported his talent and taught him to paint.
4. At the age of 14, Varma was visited by Ayilyam Thirunal, the then ruler of Travancore, and learned to paint watercolors in the city palace. Later he was trained in oil painting by Theodor Jenson, a British artist.
5. At the age of 18, Varma was married to 12-year-old Bhageerthi Bayi who belonged to the royal house of Mavelikkara. The couple was blessed with two sons and three daughters. One of his daughters, Mahaprabha Amma, can be seen in some of his most famous paintings.
6. In a short span of 8 years, Varma became an adept royal painter. He had portraits of many Indian aristocrats and British officials to his credit. His popularity grew so much that he was forced to open a post office, as letters and requests for paintings for him poured in from different corners of the country.
7. Varma was the first Indian artist to use oil paints instead of watercolors.
8. He was the first Indian painter whose work was made available to the masses and not limited to the aristocracy.
9. He started a lithographic printing press in 1894 and produced oleographs, mainly depicting gods, goddesses and scenes from Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas.
10. In 1873 Varma won first prize at the Vienna Art Exhibition.
11. He was awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal by Viceroy Lord Curzon on behalf of the British Emperor in 1904.
12. He is believed to have created approximately 7,000 paintings before his death at the age of 58.
13. His widely recognized works include Damayanti Talking to a Swan, Shakuntala Looking for Dushyanta, Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair, and Shantanu and Matsyagandha.
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