Kerala’s rich tradition of painting is rooted in its rituals like Kalamezhuthu (pictorial drawings on the floor) and the magnificent frescoes and mural art found in the old temples and churches here. Before the advent of paper and ink, palmyra leaf and vegetable dyes were used here. In modern times Kerala has attained international repute through the works of Raja Ravi Varma.
Prince Ravi Varma (1848-1906) of Kilimanoor Palace of Travancore perfected his skills even at a very early age. He learnt oil painting from Theodor Johnson, an English painter who was then staying at the palace.
Ravi Varma’s paintings capture the subtle emotions and sublimity of physique of human characters and nature alike in a realistic manner.
The exquisite works of Ravi Varma are on display at the Sree Chithra Art Gallery. The gallery is located in the Napier Museum compound, Thiruvananthapuram City. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on all days except Mondays. The gallery also houses the works of Roerich and fascinating works in the Mughal, Rajput and Tanjore schools of art, pieces from the Ajanta and Bagh caves, and an oriental collection from China, Japan, Tibet and Bali.
Today, there are two major institutions in Kerala where painting is taught as a subject – The College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram and Govt. Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts, Mavelikkara, Alappuzha district. The Ravi Varma School of Fine Arts was established by his son Rama Varma.