An Everlasting Imprint: Celebrating Raja Ravi Varma's Bombay Connection
Did you know that Bombay Singer by India’s foremost modern artist, Raja Ravi Varma was one of his ten exquisite works exhibited at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893? His special connection with the city runs much deeper. The Ravi Varma Press was initially established in Bombay and commenced functioning in the year 1894.
Join us on a spectacular journey through the vibrant tapestry as we celebrate the launch of the second volume of the six-part masterpiece, Raja Ravi Varma: An Everlasting Imprint. In these pages, you'll discover the origins of the Ravi Varma Press and the transformative influence it has cast through its visual legacy. To commence this enchanting evening, we will have Art Historian and Writer, Dr. Pheroza Godrej launching the book. After this, the book’s Author and Advocate Ganesh V. Shivaswamy would share intriguing insights and stories about Raja Ravi Varma’s Bombay connection followed by an engaging conversation with Founder Director, Eka Archiving Services Pvt Ltd. Deepthi Sasidharan.
Don't miss this extraordinary melange of art and history, offering a glimpse into the creativity, heritage, and the enduring impact of a visionary artist and his association with the city.
Ganesh V. Shivaswamy is a lawyer from Bengaluru. In addition to his profession, he has taken up the task of structuring the artistic legacy of Raja Ravi Varma. His interest in the artist commenced with a glance of the chromolithographs from the Ravi Varma Press. He now has a substantial collection of the prints from the Press which may well be considered one of the most comprehensive. In 2006, he commemorated the centennial death anniversary of the artist by creating the first online catalogue of prints from the Press. In 2016, he curated an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru (Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India) titled "Royal Lithography and Legacy". In 2019 he established the Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation, which immediately thereafter partnered with Google Arts and Culture. To commemorate 125 years since the establishment of the Ravi Varma Press, his Foundation launched chromolithographs from his collection on the Google platform. This was inaugurated by Her Highness Shubhangini Raje, Rajamata Ji of Baroda in September 2019. The following year, his foundation commemorated 150 years of the artist's professional career through further exhibits on the Google Arts & Culture platform.Read more
Deepthi Sasidharan is an art historian, curator and founder Director at Eka Archiving, a cultural advisory and works on heritage and museum projects across India with the government, private and corporate clients. Deepthi has led Eka projects have been path-breaking in India, including setting up museums, seminal exhibitions, and the creation of several important archives across India. A Fulbright and Fundacao Oriente scholar, an Ink Fellow, she has curated, spoken and published extensively on 19th century photography and has worked on turnkey projects with historic collections interfacing them with diverse audiences across multiple platforms.Read more
Lithograph Printmaking in Detail
Printmaking is an artistic process based on the principle
of transferring images from a matrix onto another surface, most often paper or
fabric. The four major traditional printmaking techniques involve Lithography,
woodcut, etching, and engraving. Screen printing is another form of modern
printmaking technique. The process of lithography involves drawing a design
onto a flat stone(or a metal plate treated with zinc or aluminum), fixing it by
means of some chemical reaction, and printing the reverse image on paper. Hence
it is a planographic process.
If one needs to print a multicolor print using lithograph, multiple stones/matrices are used for the desired color. This process is called oleography or chromolithography.
Lithography in India
Lithography was first introduced in India by James
Nathaniel Rind. He brought the lithographic press from Scotland during the rule
of the East India Company, leading to the establishment of the Government
Lithographic Press at Calcutta. One of the first lithographers in Bombay was
José M. Gonsalves. He majorly focused on producing topographical and
environmental depictions of the city. He also published a monochrome series
called Lithographic Views of Bombay and a book with chromolithographs of Bombay
Raja Ravi Varma
He is one of the foremost modern Indian artists. He was
born in Kilimaoor in an aristocratic family in the former kingdom of
Travancore. He started painting at the young age of seven and commenced formal
training in art by the age of 20. He was able to master the oil painting
technique which was fairly new during his time and also accomplished the union
of Indian traditional techniques and European academic art. The themes of his
painting revolved around the Puranas, the great Indian Epics - Mahabharata and
Ramayana. His brother C. Raja Raja Varma also played a significant role in his
life and they also traveled across multiple locations together allowing them to
explore and incorporate various art techniques in their work. Due to the high
demand for Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings, The Divan of Travancore, Raja Sir
Tanjore Madhava Rao suggested he create lithographs of his paintings.
Raja Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press
The Raja Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press was
established in 1894 in Bombay. In this venture, Ravi Varma sought the
partnership of a local entrepreneur, Govardhandas Khataumakhanji. Raja Ravi
Varma used lithographic techniques in his press to introduce fine art and
painting to the common man. The first image printed using lithography at
Varma’s press was titled ‘The Birth of Shakuntala’. He started printing Gods and Goddesses such
as Lakshmi, Ganpati, Vishnu, Saraswati, and many more and it was the first time
in history that people across India worshipped a common image of God. The
prints also included postcards, textile labels, books, advertisements, and
match-box labels. Interestingly, the Ravi Varma press continued to print
lithographs of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings even after his death. It is recorded
that roughly about 134 of his paintings were converted into lithographs.