Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan laid the foundation stone to an exclusive art gallery in memory of Raja Ravi Varma in Thiruvananthapuram on November 2. The Rs 8-crore state-of-the-art two-storey building is set to be constructed adjacent to the Sree Chithra Art Gallery.
An abandoned mansion, which served as the official quarters of museum and zoo director Dr Jeevanayakam in the 1880s, will be converted into the art gallery. While the mansion’s exterior was demolished, the structure of the 15,000 sqft building is being maintained.
The art museum will not only showcase 96 sketches by Raja Ravi Varma but that of his siblings, C Raja Raja Varma and Mangala Bai Thampuratti as well.
Although Sree Chithra Art Gallery opened in 1935 by the then Maharaja of Travancore Sree Chithira Thirunal, has a modest collection of painting of the Ravi Varma, most of the artist’s paintings are housed at Mysore Palace Art Gallery and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum at Vadodara in Gujarat.
Naseeb Mehmood, who turned Gujarati Street in Kozhikode into a creative hub, is the lead designer behind the new art gallery. Meanwhile, S Abu, Director of Museum and Zoo, is the nodal agency in the design and construction of the gallery. With work on the new art gallery expected to start next week, the attempt is to complete it within the next few months. The existing works of the late artiste will be shifted from Sree Chitra Art Gallery to the gallery once it is ready.
Born in Kilimanoor on April 29, 1848, Raja Ravi Varma’s works are considered to be excellent examples of the fusion of European techniques with an Indian sensibility. The artist, who learnt the basics of painting in Madurai, was later trained in water painting by Rama Swami Naidu and in oil painting by Dutch portraitist Theodor Jenson. He was noted for making affordable lithographs of his paintings available to the public. Most of his works depict episodes of stories such as Shakuntala and Nala and Damayanti from the Mahabharata.