June 26, 2012

The Painter by Deepanjana Pal

'The Painter' a biography of Raja Ravi Varma by Deepanjana Pal. Starting from his birth into the small princely state of Kilimanoor , the book traces the painter's life through schooling, marriage and his growth as a painter and a national figure.

It also covers many aspects of aristocratic Kerala and the various norms of the typical Nair household. Being a Nair myself, I felt this would let  me see the history and practices in a very different manner, and as for every Keralite, Raja Ravi Varma is a name not to be ever forgotten.

The book deals exclusively with the way his career as a small time painter to the most celebrated painter in India. The underlying political stage which was set and epidemics which raged through India have all been woven in beautifully to show how the life of this painter was affected by every such instance. Starting from being a kid interested immensely in the arts, to eventually the court painter at the Travancore court and then moving on to a highly travelled painter for many commissions from royal families, the book shows how this young man learnt every stroke on his own with constant support from his maternal uncle. The book details all his accounts, relationship with his family, wife and children. It shows how he and his brother were so close and his brother's death eventually took a toll on his life too. It shows a man who was so immersed in his art and career that he almost gave up his family life and moved along with his brother, who was his confidante and partner in painting.

Written based on facts from various sources, and also included are tit bits of gossip which are not recorded anywhere. The author has explained very well what is the narrative style and what are the facts and what are gossip. The writing style is very simple, and attempts to draw a story through a third person narrative. But, I feel that many a times I was not drawn so much into the story as I was in other parts, so I would like to believe that it was just a question of not so good editing. Or maybe the life of the painter at that time was not that lively and enjoyable as at some other instances.

Nevertheless, when one finishes the book, you feel its a long history that you have read and something which you would have had no clue about when you see the Ravi Varma paintings which are so beautiful. Every painting has a story which the author has tried to infuse and also show us how difficult it was to paint woven in the earlier days with questions arising on every new work.


  1. I think I would like to read this one. Ws waiting for the review on reading ur update on FB!

  2. hmmmmmmm you are right every painting has a story , as it shows what the painter is doing or going through or thinking ...



Thank you for stopping by. I would love to hear your thoughts ...