Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala


After Raja Ravi Varma

C. Rajaraja Varma and Mangalabhai Thampuratti, siblings of Raja Ravi Varma were excellent painters. Mangalabhai must be the first well-known woman painter from Kerala. It was she who painted the famous portrait of Raja Ravi Varma. Rajaraja Varma was skilled in landscape paintings. Achyuthan Pillai and Kizhakkematham Padmanabhan Thampi, who were artists at the Travancore Royal Palace, were also contemporaries of Raja Ravi Varma.

Ravi Varma’s son Ramavarma Raja, P.J. Cheriyan, N.N. Nambiar, K. Madhava Menon, P. Gangadharan, RamakrishnanAchari, C.V. Balan Nair, and P. I. Ittoop are among the most notable personalities in the generation that came after Raja Ravi Varma. P.J. Cheriyan (1891 – 1981), who was also known as Chitramezhuthu P.J. Cheriyan and Artist P.J. Cheriyan, was famous in the capacities of painter, painting instructor, early movie personality, theatre artist and so on. He gained instruction in painting from Chennai. He obtained specialized expertise in portrait painting and returned to Kerala. In 1913, he came to Mavelikkara for his higher studies and enrolled as a student under Rama Varma Raja. Together, they established Ravi Varma painting school in Mavelikkara. In 1921, Cheriyan established a studio in Chennai. P.J. Cheriyan who dedicated his life to theatre and cinema, passed away on January 18, 1981. Ente Kalajeevitham and Kalaveekshanam are his works.

K. Madhava Menon who studied painting at Shantiniketan in West Bengal, gave expression to the symbols of Kerala on his canvas. As a student of Shantiniketan, he would have naturally been influenced by the strong Bengal School of painting; however, he intentionally stayed away from that influence as is evident from his paintings. Madhava Menon’s paintings are rich in motifs such as Kerala landscape, lotus ponds, birds, rain and coconut palms. You can see in them a kind of classicism infused with a romantic poetic quality. His paintings have absolutely no elements of western style in them; he was one who held steadfast to the Indian style.

Other famous painters during this period are – Dr. A.R. Pothuval who gave importance to western fact-based learning, and artists such as R. Govindan Achari, V.S. Valiathan, T.A. Sridharan, T.V. Balakrishnan Nair, R.Hari and many others.


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