‘67 prints of Ravi Varma’s paintings were saved during Kerala floods’

Udhagamandalam: At least 67 prints of Ravi Varma’s paintings were saved in the recent Kerala flood, art historian and UNESCO fellow, Dr Choodamani Nandagopal said on Sunday.
She was speaking at the Nilgiri Library in Ooty, where an audio visual (AV) presentation on ‘the life and time of renowned artist Raja Ravi Varma’ was screened. She said the saved paintings were handed over to the Raja Ravi Varma Foundation in Bangalore.

The programme depicting the biographical sketch of Varma and what made him to take the journey of visual art enthralled the house-packed audience. Since his birth in 1848 to his death in 1906, the AV elaborated his personal, art and philosophical life, besides his association with royal families across the country.

As an art scholar, Choodamani is a consultant at the Raja Ravi Varma Foundation besides other posts she holds in various art-related organisations.

The foundation, started three years ago, is presently in the process of authentication of Varma’s work through scientific process and acquiring all the prints.

“Many fake paintings of Varma are being circulated in the market. And some are brought to us for authentication. In most of the cases we have to endorse them as fake,” she said.

Interestingly, an original painting of Varma titled, ‘Thilothama’, one of the great Apsaras, was recently sold for Rs12 crore at Sothebe, an auctioning centre in London, according to Choodamani. “It is really surprising to know that individuals own originals of Varma. Of course, many of his paintings were sold as copies by himself during his lifetime when he started a lithographic press in Pune in the year 1894,” she said.

“Varma sold about 89 paintings to German collector, Schilezer to overcome his debts due to setting up the litho-press,” she said adding, after that Travancore Maharaja invited him to be his court artist in 1897. “Later, Varma came out of commercial sense of his paintings,” he said.

Choodamani said Raja Raja Varma, Varma’s youngest brother had diarized everyday events since 1885, which was helpful to compile Varma’s art and life.

Geetha Srinivasan, Convener of INTACH-Nilgiris Chapter- the programme’s sponsor said, “It is a privilege for the audience of Ooty to witness the life and art history of Raja Ravi Varma, a self-taught artist of par excellence”.

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