Paintings of Raja Ravi Varma
Varma's beautiful sari-clad women are not slim by any means. Many are proud owners of stubby arms and rounded upper shoulders. They are just women who are going about their daily lives. They are going to the temple or pining for their loved one or nursing a baby or introspecting about something or someone. Almost all of them are swathed in a sari and often caught in varying moods and drapes. They are preoccupied, it seems, in a most charming way. Yet they are confident. They display the essence of femininity.
Ravi Varma is also credited with giving dimension and color to goddesses in Hindu mythology. His depictions of scenes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha are engraved into the collective memories of Indians. For those of us who grew up in India, our vision of the female form, especially of goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswathi, is colored by how Raja Ravi Varma first imagined them.
Giving human form to deities: Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) and Goddess Saraswathi (Goddess of Learning)
Until he began giving life and color to these mythological figures and Hindu deities, India visualized them merely as caricatures or cartoons. Varma was criticized for applying European oil painting techniques at a time when India was trying to wrestle free from imperialism. But beauty prevailed and Varma went on to win national and international awards for his mastery over the medium. The largest collection of Varma’s paintings is at the
In 2007, a Kanchipuram silk sari was released by The Chennai Silks (Chennai, India) that was dedicated to the great Indian painter. At approximately $100,000, the sari was woven with twelve precious stones, gold, diamond, platinum and silver to depict eleven of Verma’s popular paintings. The women in the paintings were hand-woven. Notice how the grand finale envisioned in the sari (see below the painting and the sari with the "woven" painting), "Galaxy of Musicians", makes a resplendent palloo (the free end of the sari that goes over the shoulder and trails in the back).
Varma's "Galaxy of Musicians" showing eleven musicians in regional attire playing a variety of instruments popular in different parts of India. Below see sari ode to the painter (Photo credit: The Chennai Silks)