Shiv, Parvati & Ganesh
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma
Printed at Ravi Varma Udaya Vijaya Photo Litho Offset Works, Ghatkopar
In 1894 Ravi Varma along with his younger brother, C. Raja Raja Varma started the Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press in Bombay. Varma went to the source of printing and employed German machines and people to work in his printing press, till he sold his machine to his employee, German printer Fritz Schleicher in 1901.
Printing presses allowed for cheap, portable, mass-produced ownership. It was possibly the first instance where the same art hung in both palaces and huts, with a minor difference in medium. In hindsight, this proves to be a symbolic moment, where faith became common. One need not belong to a specific section of society to enjoy the luxury of worship. This intermingling of the quotidian with the divine is a fantastic spectacle where a simple purchase of Woodward Gripe Water or Sunlight Soap gave you free access to God.
A cursory reflection of the prints shows us stylistic variations across the chromolithographs produced by the printing press. The majority of the prints were in fact not painted by Ravi Varma and belonged to other artists who got eclipsed by the banner of the Ravi Varma Press. M. A. Joshi, M. V. Dhurandhar, G. Venkatesh Rao and others have been known contributors to the press. These artists eventually contributed to other presses and/or started their own presses.