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RAJA RAVI VARMA BIRTH ANNIVERSARY: Raja Ravi Varma is the celebrated Indian painter widely known for the unison of the European realistic style of painting with Indian imagery. Known as ‘Father of Modern Indian Art’, he is the greatest painter in the history of India. He is renowned for painting both – portraits, such as “Ramanadha Rao and Son” and paintings of Indian mythology, such as “Riddhi Siddhi”.

On the birth anniversary of Varma, let’s know about some lesser-known facts about him:

1. Varma was born on April 29 in the year 1848, in the aristocratic family at Kilimanoor in the erstwhile Travancore state of present-day Kerala.

2. Talent of this prolific painter was exhibited around the age of 7, when he drew everyday scenes and pictures of animals on the walls.

3. In his childhood, he used indigenous colours made from leaves, flowers, tree bark and soil. His uncle Raja Raja Varma supported his talent and taught him painting.

4. By the age of 14, Varma was patronised by Ayilyam Thirunal, the then ruler of Travancore and learnt watercolour painting at 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, features 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 to such an extent that he was forced to open a post office as letters and requests for paintings came flooding in for him from various corners of the country.

7. Varma was the first Indian artist to use oil paints instead of watercolours.

8. He was the first Indian painter whose work was made available to the common masses and was not limited to 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 the first prize at the Vienna Art Exhibition.

11. He was bestowed with the title, Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal by Viceroy Lord Curzon, on behalf of the British Emperor in 1904.

12. He is believed to have produced around 7,000 paintings before his death at the age of 58.

13. His widely acknowledged works include Damayanti Talking to a Swan, Shakuntala Looking for Dushyanta, Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair, and Shantanu and Matsyagandha.

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