RAJA RAVI VARMA: An artist who is credited with bringing about a momentous turn in the art of India, Raja Ravi Varma inexorably influenced future generations of artists from different streams. He was the first artist to cast the Indian Gods and mythological characters in natural earthy surroundings using a European realism; a depiction adopted not only by the Indian “calendar-art”- spawning ubiquitous images of Gods and Goddesses, but also by literature and later by the Indian film industry- affecting their dress and form even today. His dazzling oil paintings of India’s ancient glory delighted turn-of-the-century India and his mass reproductions through oleography reached out to the Indian populace in an unprecedented scale.
Ravi Varma was convinced that mass reproduction of his paintings would initiate millions of Indians to real Art, and in 1894 he set up an oleography press called the Ravi Varma Pictures Depot. For photo-litho transfers, the Pictures Depot relied on Phalke's Engraving & Printing whose proprietor, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, became famous as dadasaheb of Indian Cinema a few years later.
The Calendar-Art thus brought-forth by Ravi Varma has been the origin of lakhs of gaudy god-pictures by ultramodern litho presses for decades. Raja Ravi Varma died of diabetes on October 2, 1906, in his Kilimanoor Palace home overflowing with friends, relatives, dignitaries and the media. Yet, the rich heritage of the fragrance of his paintings continues to charm and influence the art of India.