Clive Farahar Antiquarian Books - Rare and Antiquarian Books and Manuscripts

RAVI VARMA PRESS. Vishnu Narayana on the Snake Shesha,  Vishnu sits with his two wives Lakshmi and Bhudevi the Earth Godess on the Snake Throne formed of the coils of the five hooded Shesha on the calm waters of the Cosmic Ocean, Ravi Varma Press, c.1915
chromolithograph with title in black and margins, signed in the print "Ravi Varma", 19 x 14ΒΌ ins. 49 x 36 cm. Registered No. 80,
Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906). He became famous for his paintings and internationally famous for his lithographic prints after his paintings. He adopted German printing technology and the help of german technicians for his printing work. He introduced affordable popular prints all over India at the highest printing technique at that time. The press, founded in Bombay in 1894, had an overwhelming impact on modern Indian aesthetics. It was Ravi Varma's great industrial enterprise that sadly took its toll on the artist and his creativity. Established in 1894, the Ravi Varma Fine Arts Lithographic Press was, for some time, the largest picture printing establishment in India, and also the most innovative. Several German technicians looked after the servicing and working of the machines and by extension, took part in the formulation of the modern Hindu pantheon. Right from the beginning, the press was under the technical control of German printer Fritz Schleicher, who eventually became its owner in 1903. Ravi Varma ran the press as an absentee artist, with virtually no control over financial dealings, which were in the hands of his business partner Govardhan Das until 1898. When Bombay was ravaged by the plague, Ravi Varma parted ways with Govardhan Das and decided to move the press from Ghatkopar to Malavli, with Schleicher's help. He introduced the infrastructure necessary to run the steam-driven lithographic machinery, and maintained the biggest capital of the press, the store of lithographic master stones. Under Schleicher's guidance, the press dismantled, shifted and reassembled at least twice between 1898 and 1901, first moving from Girgaum to Ghatkopar, and later to Malavli near Lonavla. For the transfer of the pictures to stone, Schleicher relied on the artistic ability of another German lithographer, P. Gerhardt, who was also a talented painter and a master at foliated backgrounds. If Gerhardt was a master of the backdrop, then Schleicher was known as a master of rendering human figures on stone. Schleicher and Shriram Pant, a friend of the Varma brothers, leased the press from them in 1901. The working language at the press was German, as markings on original litho stones show. Under the strict supervision of Schleicher and his German printers, the press became a virtual goldmine. The two machines at the press could produce up to 800 impressions per hour. The Varma brothers sold the press to Schleicher and Pant, along with the permission to reproduce about 100 of Ravi Varma's paintings, for a considerable sum, and to be received in monthly instalments. - Raja Ravi Varma, Portrait of an Artist: The Diary of C. Raja Raja Varma by Erwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger. The Ravi Varma press was the largest and most innovative press in India at that time. The press was managed by Varma's brother, Raja Varma, but under their management, it was a commercial failure. By 1899 the press was deeply in debt and in 1901, the press was sold to his printing technician from Germany, Fritz Schleicher. Schleicher continued to print Ravi Varma's prints but later employed less talented artists to create new designs. Schleicher also broadened the product of press to include commercial and advertisement labels. Under the management of Schleicher and his successors, the press continued successfully until a devastating fire destroyed the whole factory in 1972. Many of Ravi Varma's original lithographic prints were also lost in the fire.

Stock ref: 14691