The famous and one of the most controversial painters of Indian modern art – Raja Ravi Varma was popular not only for his paintings but more because of the controversies that surrounded him. Known as the ‘Painter of Colonial India’ and the ‘Father of Modern Indian Art’, he took the artistic experimentation route and did not hesitate to bring his bold thoughts out on the canvas.
He has been a part of some of the big controversies in the 18th and 19th century to the extent to be charged in the court for them. His popularity has been the same nonetheless. There is a huge collection of his paintings in the palaces of Baroda, Thiruvananthapuram and Mysore and with private owners. Here are 5 reasons why Raja Ravi Varma was and still is considered the king of controversies.
- Nude paintings of mythological characters – Raja Ravi Varma had a bold artistic style and imagination and did not fear letting it show in his work. He was the first painter to visualize Gods and Goddesses in a human form. He painted semi-nude paintings of goddesses and apsaras like Urvashi, Rambha from the time of Mahabharata and Ramayana that got him into a lot of trouble on the grounds of hurting religious values. He did not stop anyhow since he believed in his work and was always drawn by the unexplored.
- Charged at Bombay court– Raja Ravi Varma was charged at Bombay court with cases of obscenity, offending public morality and hurting religious and cultural sentiments of people. With his paintings, Ravi Varma was tagged as the rebel of those times. He did something that people would not even think of at that time. Art has always been a debatable ground and Raja Ravi Varma was the first artist to fight for what he believed in – Art. He gave out a strong message to people that art cannot be suppressed by setting an example. Ultimately, he was absolved of those charges.
- Relationship with his muse – Sugandha was Raja Ravi Varma’s muse who posed nude for himfor his paintings. Rumor has it that Raja Ravi Varma fell in love with her and had a relationship with her even though he was married and had children. Raja Ravi Varma created many nude paintings of Sugandha which were supposed to be private but somehow became public.
- Printing press set on fire – Raja Ravi Varma’s started a Lithographic printing press in 1894 to reprint his artwork of Hindu Gods and Goddesses from Ramayana and Mahabharata. It was sold to his printing technician from Germany, Mr. Schleizer, after his health started deteriorating. The press was eventually shut after it caught fire mysteriously. No reason could be traced regarding the cause of the fire. Rumor has it this was done by people who objected to Raja Ravi Varma’s portrayal of goddesses and women and wanted to stop it.
- His elder son went missing to be never heard of again – Ravi Varma’s eldest son, Kerala Varma, went missing mysteriously in 1912 and was never heard of again. Even after a lot of attempts to locate him, nothing could be found about his absence.
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