Excerpts from BOOK 1- 1919

From PhalkeFactory


Dada: It is the year of my birth. And far away from Trymbakeshwar, an artist is being born, the artist who I feel is the father of my imagination. In Travancore Diwan Madhav Rao is watching his protegee, Raja Ravi Varma, paint. The 22 year old Ravi Varma is working on the canvas of his first commission, a portrait of a upper class nuclear family from Trivandrum. The group of five are looking back at the painter. The woman is all clothes, and a small face. The young Ravi Varma has spent the time reserved for her carefully delineating the folds of her clothes. The littlest boy is pushing himself further into his mother's lap. The other two boys stand between their parents, staring at the painter. Ravi Varma's eye shies before the eye of the patriarch- the dark skinned, bearded man, the head of the Khizakkepat Palat Family , least innocent in the group sitting before the artist, his eyes most tired, most knowing. His gaze seems to consider the painter standing before him. Ravi Varma has spent a large time trying to 'capture' that which arrests him about this man, and failing. That vitally alive being, that expanse of brown skin remain frustratingly outside the grasp of his brush. What he paints is flat brown canvas, nothing compared to the contoured body that sits before him, just beyond that canvas. Ravi Varma is confining himself to that which he knows better- the ornamentation he has learnt from his uncle. He deftly paints a single pearl in the patriarch's ears, and is reassured by the perfect gleam. He then tries to make pearls of those eyes. He carefully works on the patriarch's mother of pearl eyes and places on them, like inlay work, the beads of those dark, shining irises, crowned with the deepest gem of the pupil. Like a necklace that speaks on the neck of a woman, those eyes are suddenly his, the painters', the portrait has comes alive. More confident now, the young man paints, and soon, the middle child's irises show the fear of a little animal that is caught, the oldest one's are opened up like the eternally startled doe of Shakuntala(the painter likes that). And the woman's face, guileless as a child, her gaze blinder than everyone else's as she faces the painter. The gaze of a creature dulled by her unexpected exit from the confines of her routines, into this sunlight, facing a young good looking man, being asked to be still, sitting around her family. If Ravi Varma's own family were to be painted, a galaxy of artists would come alive- a poet mother, a painter uncle, a sibling immersed in music, the other two showing the promise at painting. Ravi Varma faces the frustration of having to make the world out of a thick piece of cloth. I bring a cloth alive too. But I always feel that his was the greater skill, dependent on one person, his brush and his mind.


Sawantwadi childhood1.gif

Shakuntala Patralekhan from 1876 [1] Marathi literature, late 19th century

Lady with Flower Chitrashala Press started by Chiplunkar (1869- ammunition factory shifted from Mumbai to Pune) also Kavyaitehas Sangraha- monthly- Marathi literature and poetry also the Aryabhushan Press next year started a bookshop for inspirational Marathi books the year after- Kesari and Marata collaborator with and influence on Tilak --- Photogravure Karel Klic, artist in 1874, he had started the periodical Nibandhamala with his father also translated a Samuel Johnson- Rasselas and an English translation of the Arabian Nights into Marathi "He that has much to do will do something wrong, and of that wrong must suffer the consequences; and, if it were possible that he should always act rightly, yet when such numbers are to judge of his conduct, the bad will censure and obstruct him by malevolence, and the good sometimes by mistake." s Johnson This period in Marathi literature- influence of english, long sentences with several subordinate clauses the book was a loose narrative about the quest for happiness "We are long before we are convinced that happiness is never to be found, and each believes it possessed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining it for himself." from 1878 also from 1878, Ravi Varma paints an eponymous portrait of the Duke of Buckingham, who is the Governor of Madras.

Victoria Terminus

from 1879 Art School teachers are organising public exhibitions. In 1879, Perstonji received the Viceroy's gold medal for his Head of a Gosain. He had won the overall prize at the exhibition, which went some way in loosening the category of a mere 'native artist'. 25 women artists also participated in 1879, most of them Bengali and married.

Sita Bhoomipravesam from 1880

Ravi Varma takes class in JJ

Ravi Varma spends time in Baroda from 1881

[[1882][ Dhundiraj Phalke's notes for a possible script? on Raja Ravi Varma

parallel trajectory with Kirloskar Sangeet Natak Mandali

parallel history of photography

1884 much written about Ravi Varma for this year

1885 Ravi Varma and Raja Varma travel to Mysore, and spend time painting different members of the Royal Family. Apart from remuneration, Ravi Varma is also gifted two elephants. check this from 1886, what is it? Budhwarkar Felici - sculptor(Indian h Raja Ravi Varma White Pavilion Solomon/Sister of begum of Janjer

1887while portraiture was becoming the new valued art form in art schools and high society alike..there was a percolation within the middle classes too. If the rich were getting portraits painted, the middle class were keen to get photographs taken, portrait photography. So there were art school students setting up studios, and if they could not afford that, being employed to tint photographs in commercial studios. No matter how skilled the painter, his work was always in fee to an inescapable subjectivity. The fact that a human hand interveneed cast a shadow of doubt over the image. Again, the essential factor in the transition from the baroque to photography is not he perfecting of a physical process(photography will long remain the inferior of painting in the reproduction of colour); rather does it lie in a psychological fact, to wit, in completely satisfying our appetitie for illusion by a mechanical reproduction in the making of which man plays no part. The solution is not to be found in the result achieved but in the way of achieving it. ab Photography aaffects us like a phenomenon in nature, like a flower of snowflake whose vegetable or earthly origins are an inseperable part of their beauty.

1888 14 portraits for Laxmi Vilas Museum

1890Gurusaday Dutt "the living traditions of the distinctive arts of each province existed in an almost unbroken current in its rural areas from remote antiquity"[4] When the brothers are painting in Bombay, many Brahmain women walk in, to see the divine sight of the gods on earth. The paintings, when they are completed, are first exhibited in Trivandrum, in a large, unprecedented kind of public exhibition. then they travelled to and were shown in Bombay, before reaching Baroda. Paintings: Nala Damayanti Radha and Madhava Bharata and the Lion Cub Arjun and Subhadra Vishvamitra and Menaka Shantanu and Ganga Kamsa Maya Disrobing of Draupadi Harischandra and Taramati Keechak and Sairandhari(also titled: Beauty and the Beast) Sita Swayamvaram Birth of Krishna Devaki and Krishna Shantanu and Satyavati

IMPORTANT In the absence of easily available nude models and with the ascendancy of figurative drawing, young Indians in the art schools, aspiring to be 'gentleman painters' got used to drawing from British illustrations and photographs and prints from abroad.1891

1892Baroda commission paintings exhibited in Bombay. Raja Ravi Varma meets Dadabhai in Bombay. Dadabhai advises him on setting up a printing press. Ravi Varma Fine Arts Lithographic Press starts in Bombay. starts to print only two years later. On Dadabhai's advice, a business partnership is set up with Govardhan Das Khatau Makanji. Vivekanada sees Ravi Varma's paintings in Baroda and is full of praise for them.

1893 I spent the entire morning looking at Ravi Varma's pictures. I must confess I find them really attractive. After all, these pictures prove to us how dear our own stories, our own images and expressions are to us. In some paintings, the figures are not quite in proportion. Never mind! The total effect is compelling. Rabindrath Tagore, Chhinna Patrabali

Phalke paints backdrops for plays, in Baroda

At an international exhibition of art in Chicago, Ravi Varma exhibited ten paintings depicting different beauties of different Indian regions. All ten paintings were selected for the exhibition, and he got a diploma that recognised him as an artist and two medals too. The diploma certificate generously praised both, the classical and the narrative/autobiographical tendencies in these paintings. However the paintings were exhibited in a special category called "Institutions and Organisations for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge". The award was given in recognition of "the progress of instruction in Art." Awards: Citation one: This exhibit of ten paintings in oil colours, by Ravi Varma, court painter to several presidencies of India, is of much ethnological value, not only do the faces of the high-caste ladies which are portrayed give the various types of the localities, but the Artist's careful attention to the details of costume and articles used in the social and ceremonial life he has depicted, renders the paintings worthy of special commendation. Citation two: A series of well executed paintings give a good idea of the progress of instruction in Art. They are true to nature and in form and color and preserve the costumes, current fashion and social features. Perhaps Vivekananda, attending the Congress of Religions, saw the paintings there. It is said that on his return to Bombay, Vivekananda was received by Ravi Varma.

1894Dhundiraj wins award in competition in Ahmedabad as best backdrop painter. Patwardhan Vinayakrao's younger brother Ramachandra also joins in this magic lantern enterprise. They start using three magic lanterns[], two for showing the action and one for the background. The lenses of the Kharolika were of foreign make. The show used to start with the entry of the Sutradhar and two singer. Raja Ravi Varma starts his famed lithographic press to mass-print pictures of popular gods and goddesses(life awakening of the still motif).

Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press opens in Girgaum, Bombay. There is imported machinery and also two German artists are to work with the press to help transfer Varma's drawings to lithographs. first high speed steam driven press which could produce 1000 oleographs per shift, installed at Ravi Varma press.

Ravi and Raja Varma closely follow the proceedings of the case against a seller of German oleographs in Bombay, who is being charged with selling obscene pictures. The two judges, one British, one Indian, rule that it is not nakedness of the classical subjects that is objectionable, because loftier ideals than just a exciting of the sensual appetite, are visible- rather, it is the tasteless insertion of modern objects like a silk umbrella that is taking away from the idealism the pictures would other wise have. Raja Varma savoured the quiet of walking the broad roads of the city with his brother, going for an evening play, sitting around ornate living room chairs with important people of the city, discussing possible paintings. Life had changed so effortlessly since he had left Trivandrum, he had flowed with the new. Now, quite like the fob watch that might hang from a well stitched pocket, he completed the delicate embroidery of his gentlemanness with the gesture of keeping a diary. And new pleasures unfolded, of seeing your life become an image, in the unusual sounds of an adopted language(if you paused to think about it). His diary was his photoalbum. He felt the pleasure of writing 'Thackers and company' renew the pleasure of finding himself in a situation, where he could step out of his house and stroll into a 'Thackers and company'. He repeated his day everyday to savour it some more. And then, as he got accustomed to this little hand mirror called a diary that accompanied his everywhere, he began to forget the self conscious pleasure of looking at himself, it became habit, and he could allow his writing to be reflection in a deeper sense.. he could fall, further, into the looking glass. Thursday 17th January 1895 Messers Dharmsey and Narotam Morarji invited us to his house the China Bay a beautiful building to see a novel performance in which first an earthern pot was transformed into a living human head which again turned into a glass fish pond and so on. The illusion was startling. Ravi Varma's brother, Raja Varma starts to keep a diary. The diary entries in Bombay, suggest the routines of the lives of two gentlemen painters, not very different from their European counterparts. A good day at work, a browse through a bookshop, an evening's entertainment, which could be a play, a nautch performance. There is also a lot of giddy, and perhaps, difficult travel from princely state to state, with shifting weather conditions, attrition because of various palace intrigues( as in Hyderabad, where professional jealously from Raja Deen Dayal, who had first invited them, leads to difficulties in completing the assignment). In princely states they see scenic sights, architectural wonders, as possibilities for paintings. Raja Raja Varma specialises in landscapes, Ravi Varma is coveted for the amazing likenesses he creates of his subject's faces. In Bombay, there is a visit to "Tivoli Theatres" to see School of Scandala visit with Justice Jardine to see the High Court, a drive to Fort in the evening, or permission some day to see P and O company's steamer, 'Caledonia', "one of the largest we have ever seen. The first class accomodations and furniture were splendid".

The best reproductions of Ravaj Ravi Varma arrived from Germany. These prints reached distant homes and set a style. His litho-press at Bhatwadi, Bombay, was conducted by Mr. Schliecher. Mhatre makes his "To the Temple" at J.J.School.

1896Young Ganpatrao Mhatre had enrolled as a painting student in the Bombay art school, but was soon taken up by sculpture. He would often absent himself from class, to the ire of the authorities who asked him to report with an explaination. Mhatre carried the plaster cast he had been working on, of a woman on her way to the temple, and carried it into class and placed it so it would stand in the direct path of the lecturer who walked in. His 'explaination' astounds the principal, Greenwood, who cannot imagine how Mhatre has so seamlessly absorbed the conventions of Greco Roman sculpture while all the while training as a painter? Ravi Varma declared it to be " The most beautiful production of its kind I have ever seen by a native" It was a great vindication for art schools who were often threatened with extinction. Rabindranath Tagore writes of her "a gracefully upright tuberose in bloom, gently swaying int he wind and spreading its sweet fragrance on a clear night...' Ramananda- the visual arts could glue the diversities of India the way literature could not, dependent as it was on translations from one to the other. After 1896, Ravi Varma press starts printing oleographs of Shivaji, Tilak, Ranade --- 1897Saraswati and Ganesh start appearing together in images, a trend that Mulk Raj Anand later criticises for being a wish fulfilment of the growing class of shopkeepers, only reading their account books, but aspiring access to becoming part of the intelligensia.

memoranda from 1898- raja ravi varma's diaries- how the plague in bombay affected their plans

Balendranath Tagore, 28 years old, Whenever educated, westernised taste has interfered with this intuitive skill (of Indians) of applying pure colours, art has been distorted by the barbaric touch, as it were. The 'barbarians' have learnt only to comprehend the dictionary meaning of the natural and the artificial. They wish to turn the flowers on the carpet into real flowers and impose English patterns on the dazzling traditional colours of saree borders. The more mimetic the patterns is, the less artificial it becomes.

1899 The Ravi Varma press is facing mounting debts for various reasons- the brothers' constant travels, the prevailing plague conditions and the difficulty of hiring labour, the death of their uncle making their brothers leave Bombay for two years. A number of paintings are sold to Joshi for the sum of Rs. 22,000 Anjani Bai Malpekar gives her first public performance in Bombay, at the age of 16. She gives up active singing by 1904, plagued by a lot of harassment. She is also a beautiful woman and poses for many Ravi Varma portraits. ( difficult to date though- she is supped to have posed for lady in the moonlight, but that is said to be painted about a decade earlier. She is a Kalavant from Goa [2]

1900 Photographic transfer process introduced in India soon after 1900 by Dada Saheb Phalke. He set up his own studio in Malvali that worked for the Ravi Varma Press but also for other printers in the area. colour transfer of pictures in conjunction with photography. ( seems like this is a wrong date?)

Phalke travelling with Nicepherone Niepce 1901 On a darkened stage, a large black canvas was illuminated by limelight.

As he made passes with his right hand, the canvas gradually and mysteriously gave birth to a brighter and brighter painting, Raja Ravi Varma reproduction.

Phalke receives a letter saying that he as won the Silver medal in an exhibition in BOmbay or his half-tone blocks of Raja Ravi Varma paintings.

At the awards ceremony, Phalke meets Raja Ravi Varma again, who introduces him to Professor Bhandarkar.

Bhandarkar offers Phalke a job as a draughtsman with the Archaeological Site of India. During a trip to the Karla caves, Phalke again meets Raja Ravi Varma, who has set up a printing press near Lonavala.

On Prof. Bhandarkar's advice, and inspired by the Swadeshi movement, Phalke also decides to set up a printing press at Lonavala, to make reproductions of Raja Ravi Verma paintings.

One day the police stop and question him.

They are suspicious of his terracotta figurines and human bones.

1902 September 1902. "the whole of the Madras-bombay train was wrecked at Cudappa" entry in Raja Raja Varma's diary

Half tone engraving, three colour engraving It all came of use. The camera that I had invested in 12 years ago, when I was still a young man scaling the Brahmagiri.. the time I had invested in the Kala Bhavan library, the eye that the kindly Professor Gujjar had rested on me.. I became a line engraver. I started the Phalke Printing and Engraving Works in partnership with Shri Ramkrishna Bhandarkar. I would make photographs of the paintings and then, expose the negative onto a place of zinc on which was a light sensitive cover of gelatin. That image, in lines, would then be engraved and printed. I remember personally etching the lines of the cascading hair of the Ravi Varma women, delineating the waters of the ponds around Laxmi, seperating the wings of Jatayu. There was a woman wearing a golden blouse, holding a betel nut. Her hair was pulled back behind her ears, like this, but one tendril had escaped and had run over her brow. Was she pulling her saree pallu over her shoulder or was she slipping it off? It was difficult to say, looking into her eyes. That fine line of eyebrow.. I have let it emerge after etching other parts of the plate. I knew those paintings, under my fingers. That year, I was awarded a silver medal for my prints. I made photo litho transfers for the Raja Ravi Varma's press. They trusted my work with the camera, they trusted my special skill- I knew about both, photography and printing. They wrote about me in foreign magazines. I got so much work that I had to shift from Lonavala to Dadar. I was learning to be a businessman, I had moved so far away from everything my father knew as work.. and still, whatever he knew was returning to me, it helped me bring alive all those paintings and stories, it showed me the way to the films.

1903Arensky's, Russian composer's opera, Nal Damayanti excerpt- Damayanti's cradle song [1]

1905 Ravi Varma visits Lonavala with his model cum friend. The overseer of his printing press, Slasher, goes hunting with his photogrum ---1906Dada's father dies. 20th OCtober, Ravi Varma Dies.