On this day in 1848, the great Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma was born. I’ve never been very clear on the Indian caste system, but Varma was kind of born to painting—or at least that bourgeois creative class. Actually, I suppose he was part of Vaisyas caste. His father was a scholar and his mother, a poet. And at least two of his brothers went on to be painters. Varma is the most famous of them.
What I appreciate about him is how he brings western and eastern painting traditions together. You might say he was the William Bouguereau of India. But as much as I love Bouguereau, Varma is much more than that. His color palette is far more intense. And his religious painting is far more interesting, but that is probably just because the Hindu religion has far more interesting iconography than Christianity does.
Here is painting I especially admire of Murugan, the god of war, victory, wisdom and love:
Happy birthday Raja Ravi Varma!