About Rukmini Varma

Rukmini Varma is a leading Indian artist who paints in the classical tradition. Born in 1940 as Princess Bharani Tirunal Rukmini Bayi Thampuran of Travancore State, Rukmini is a great-great granddaughter of the master painter Ravi Varma and custodian of his artistic legacy through the Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation. Tutored at Satelmond Palace in Trivandrum and in Bangalore at Mount Carmel College, she is a self-taught artist, whose skill and technique have evolved over a lifetime of painting into a singular school and style that she describes as Visionary Realism.

Growing up amidst exquisite works of beauty in an environment populated by court painters and artistes, Rukmini’s work is heavily influenced by the creations of baroque masters like Rembrandt, Rubens and later by artists such as Lord Leighton and Sir Alma Tadema, as well as by the opulence of her royal heritage and nostalgia for an India that once was. Her paintings come alive with splendour and metaphor, marrying legend with history and mythology with drama.

Drawing from Ravi Varma’s palette, using a minimum of colours and mixing her own unique shades, allegorical imagination is the hallmark of Rukmini’s work, where attractive qualities of her human figures are highlighted, their defects underplayed—often eliminated—and beauty celebrated as eternal in its divinity. There is exaggeration, but never distortion, of the human form in her velvety canvases even as she shines a striking focus on to shades of skin contrasted against exquisite gem-set jewels and shimmering gold.


The Foundation

Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation was established in 2015 to uphold the values and traditional expressions which the great artist sought to promote and delineate through his works, a rich cultural heritage that is not confined within geographical borders of just our country but the world in general.

The Foundation is the brainchild of his great great granddaughter Princess Bharani Thirunal Rukmini Bayi Thampuran of Travancore State, Gitanjali Maini, art connoisseur, promoter and curator and Jay Varma an artist extraordinaire who is carrying on the rich legacy of academic art.

With an intense passion for art and preserving the heritage of Raja Ravi Varma, the founders have embarked on a journey to promote his rich legacy, whose works continue to influence every walk of life - be it art and culture, theatre, education, religion, personal beliefs, attire and adornment and even films.

The Foundation works to sustain Varma’s heritage and engage with relevant stakeholders and the public, as do other foundations in Europe and elsewhere for masters such as Rembrandt and Picasso.

The Foundation is firmly rooted in three principles that governed Varma's life:

  • To Educate
  • To Appreciate
  • To Preserve

Princess Bharani Thirunal Rukmini Bayi Thampuran of Travancore State is the custodian of his artistic legacy through The Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation.

Talking about Raja Ravi Varma she says "Creativity, he has proved, has no boundaries or barriers. In the realisation of an all-persuasive connection and resonance of idealism my great-great grandfather has painted a variety of subjects, which included portraits of all individuals, irrespective of caste, creed, nationality or religious leanings. He effectively used his brush as a medium to unite and integrate all of humanity, without prejudice. It is this aspect of all-encompassing universalism which he achieved through his art, that this Foundation aims to spread, uphold and establish, thereby keeping the spirit of Ravi Varma alive.”

For more information, please visit Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation website.

Opulence & Eternity 2017

With Opulence & Eternity, Rukmini returned with an exhibition after a long sabbatical that began in 1982 when she last displayed her work at the Taj Gallery and the Jehangir Art Gallery. Her first major solo in Bangalore was inaugurated by Governor Mohanlal Sukhadia in 1973, followed by a show at the Lalit Kala Academy in Delhi, opened by President V.V. Giri in 1974. After exhibitions in the continent, Rukmini’s hugely acclaimed London exhibition was opened by Lord Mountbatten at India House in 1976. She has been a member of the Advisory Board of the Chitrakala Parishat, and continues to live and work in Bangalore, even as her paintings hang in collections around the world, offering, as Justice A.N. Ray once remarked, ‘the key to beauty and bliss in life’.

In Opulence & Eternity, Rukmini embraced a universe that was at once diverse in theme and mood, but united in the magnificence of treatment dedicated to every subject. There were three queens—from Tiye of Egypt in 1360 BCE to Rukmini’s grandmother, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi in 1930 CE. They were strong, beautiful women in scenes of charged sensuousness, last seen in her Prateeksha series, as well as more earthy women who appeared in the Lamp series. The most breath-taking, however, was the celebration of the love of Vishnuvardhan and Shantala, Emperor and Empress of the Hoysalas, where the prince featured not so much in his avatar as a valorous twelfth-century warrior as much as in a romantic moment of proposal at the great temple in Belur with his beloved, Shantala, a dancer immortalised since in poetry and sculpture and now enshrined for the first time in the grandeur of oil.


God said, "Let there be cobalt blue, cadmium yellow and vermilion"