Exhibitions & Events

Launch of "Hidden Truth - Raja Ravi Varma: The Inside Story"

April 29th, 2018

Many are the biographies written of Raja Ravi Varma. Indeed, such is the charisma of this multi-faceted personality that many more works upon him could still be written in the future, each from a different perspective.

The personal aspect of Ravi Varma in the book is based upon what I have learned about him from my grandmother — the last Maharani of Travancore — Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, who knew much about his personal experiences that others did not. Her mother Mahaprabha Thampuratty, who was Ravi Varma’s favourite daughter, knew even more about him and was privy to his thoughts which he revealed to her on many off-guard moments, talking about his inner agonies — both personal and physical.

Together with the many instances of his life recounted to me by my grandmother, who was Raja Ravi Varma's eldest granddaughter, and other pieces of information regarding his character and persona gleaned from uncles and members of his family who were alive at that time, facts no one but the elders of our family knew of, made for a fascinating study of his journey as a painter par excellence!

In the late 1960s, I had access to some of Ravi Varma’s notes penned by him within the pages of two books “The Best Works of the Royal Academy Masters” that he constantly referred to, in his studies on composition and placement. These notes contained brief indications regarding his works, often merely one or two words, but sufficient for me to instinctively realise what was going on in his mind. As for example "green of leaf" led me to realise he meant to more deeply investigate the colour for further reference in the pastoral background of some of his paintings. Similarly, "Attoli— for clues" meant he wished to investigate the powers of tantric art for his process of "Actualisation". When I read what he had written, everything seemed to fall into place and the missing links in his life appeared to join, weaving together the loose ends. A thrilling discovery and it simply had to be written!

It exposed, what seemed to me, the workings of his Inner Psyche and his life’s secret goal. Much is known about his life through the research of many scholars. But little is known of the Man behind his paintings. In these pages are revealed, through a lucky coincidence that brought to light what he himself had penned regarding his inner thoughts, the hidden psyche of this amazing artist.

Opulence & Eternity

January 20th to February 19th, 2017

Shri S.M. Krishna, former Cabinet Minister, inaugurated the exhibition titled Opulence & Eternity by renowned artist Rukmini Varma, on the evening of 21st January 2017 in the presence of Guest of Honour Mrs Sangita Jindal of the JSW Foundation. The exhibition was held at Bengaluru’s gallery g, for a month. This was the artist’s first solo show since 1982 when she last displayed her works at the iconic Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai.

Born in 1940 as Princess Bharani Tirunal Rukmini Bayi Tampuran of the state of Travancore, Rukmini Varma is a great-great granddaughter of the master painter Raja Ravi Varma and Chairperson of the Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation. She was formerly a member of the Advisory Board of the Chitrakala Parishat, Karnataka. Her first solo was inaugurated by Governor Mohanlal Sukhadia in 1973, following which her exhibition at the Lalit Kala Academy in Delhi was opened by President V.V. Giri in 1974. After a series of exhibitions in Europe, she presented her work at India House in London 1976, with Lord Mountbatten doing the honours. Her last major shows were held in 1981-82 at the Taj and Jehangir Galleries in Mumbai. Today her masterpieces, painted in the increasingly rare classical style, hang in collections around the world, but have not been displayed in public for decades.

Through Opulence & Eternity, Mrs. Varma has opened to the public gaze once again her sumptuous and singular work, inspired by baroque masters like Rembrandt and Rubens, as well as by her illustrious ancestor who married the classical style to Indian subjects and themes. “The canvases in Opulence & Eternity,” said Gitanjali Maini Founder Director of gallery g, “encompassed a diverse range of historical as well as legendary themes, and were simply breathtaking in their splendour of style. The gems and jewels came alive on the persons of men and women who occupied scenes of high drama and metaphoric meaning.” The highlight of the exhibition was a majestic twelve-foot-tall painting that told the story of the Hoysala emperor Vishnuvardhan and his queen, the legendary dancer, Shantala. “There were also subjects inspired by Kerala and ancient Egypt, alongside a celebration of womanhood and beauty. I was delighted,” added Maini, “to announce that all of the ten major canvases that were on displayed had already been sold two months prior to the exhibition.”

In addition to the exhibition, which lasted four weeks, Opulence & Eternity featured a master class on oil painting and realism in art by prominent American artist Joseph Dolderer along with Jay Varma (great great great grandson of Raja Ravi Varma and who will launch himself as an artist in the year 2020) which was held on 25th January 2017 at the premises of gallery g. A discussion on Mrs. Varma’s life journey, from highborn princess to reclusive artist, was also organized on the 22nd January 2017, where she was in conversation with Manu S Pillai, author of the The Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore and Rebel Sultans.

Limited edition artist-signed miniature serigraphs on custom made easels of the Magnificent Hoysala of Mrs. Varma’s work were available at the gallery during the show, for art lovers who wished to take a piece of the art back with them.

The inaugural night also featured a biopic of Mrs. Rukmini Varma, made by Parvati Menon, former Chairperson Films Society of India.