Born in Kilimanoor, Kerala, in 1848 to a princely family, Ravi Varma was educated as a court artist in Trivandrum. Raja Ravi Varma’s art marks an historic turn in the development of Indian modern art and Indian artists, at the beginning of the movement for Indian Independence. Ravi Varma’s works, which incorporated the use of oil as a medium and a distinctly European style of realism, influenced other artists and shaped a new perception of “Indian Art”. Ravi Varma’s depiction of mythological figures in a natural human style rather than the traditional supernatural imagery used to convey gods, goddesses and their myths or tales.
Over the 1870s and 1880s, he was commissioned for several portraits, participated in exhibitions and received several awards. In 1892, Ravi Varma began his own press in Bombay, where he made color reproductions of his own work and extended his reach. This did in fact allow him to become one of the most prolific artists of his time. Raja Ravi Varma has had many significant exhibitions, both in India and internationally. However, his first was in Madras, where he submitted “Nair woman with Jasmine flower in her hair” and won the Governor’s Gold Medal. From there he went on to paint for several of the royal families in India and for colonial and royal visitors from England.