Raja Ravi Varma’s 19th century oleographs in Kolkata

Kolkata, Aug 25 (IANS) As many as 16 oleographs on paper by legendary Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma are on display at an exhibition here.

Varma, credited with being the pioneer of modern art in India, was also one of the first to marry Indian and European styles of art and is remembered in particular for illustrations of Hindu gods and goddesses using human models and use of oil paints.
“This is the first time in Kolkata that oleographs have been showcased from Raja Ravi Verma Press,” a spokesperson at Galerie 88 here told IANS Monday.
The 19th century painter, hailing from Travancore (in present day Kerala), introduced the concept of oleography (a type of lithography or large scale printing with stone plates) to Indian fine art and started the Ravi Varma Press in Maharashtra in 1894 with German technicians and European machinery.
At the exhibit, one can view works such as “Mohini on a Swing”, “Kadambari”, and Varma’s famed painting “Ashtabhuja Devi”.
Depicting goddess Durga riding a lion and slaying buffalo-headed demon Mahishashur, the image caused a furore with the British colonial government misinterpreting it as cow-killing in the aftermath of the 1857 uprising.
In response to the work, in December 1911 the British invoked the Indian Press Act to stop the dissemination of the image.
Varma used oleographs on paper, a type of lithography that uses oil paints on paper to make his work available to the masses. He eventually sold the press to one of the Germans.
The stone-printing procedure allows exact brushstrokes and patterns to be replicated on a large scale with multitudes of tones and diverse colour palette.