Amentor to Mysore's many budding artists, this exponent of the Mysore School of Painting, M. Ramanarasiah, is much more than a good teacher. He has donated a number of his paintings to individuals, temples and institutions creating a deep awareness and interest in the aesthetics of art. Young at 88, this simple, soft-spoken and gentle artist resides in Vijayanagar.
Born in 1922, Ramanarasiah is the son of Venkatanarasiah, a Shirastedar in the erstwhile princely State of Mysore.
Ramanarasiah completed his SSLC in the then English Medium High School in Mysore, run by the Methodist Mission. His favourite subject was Chemistry and Science. His father wanted Ramanarasiah to become a doctor or a scientist. But drawn by the intangible call of art which he saw as an integral part of one’s life, he chose to follow his muse in the field of painting.
With a burning desire to become an accomplished artist and hopefully reach the level of Ravivarma, Ramanarasiah appeared for the entrance exam in Chamarajendra Technical Institute. At the time, its Superinten-dent was reputed artist Pawanje.
Pawanje, impressed by Ramanarasiah's skill and his control over lines and the fluidity in executing them, directly admitted him to second year course. Ramanarasiah graduated in Fine Arts in 1947 and in 1950, he married Jayalaxmi.
After marriage, Ramanarasiah settled down to become a full-fledged painter and created a 12-inch masterpiece of Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar in oils. Other accomplishments followed and he was given royal patronage until 1960.
During the days of royal patronage he completed numerous oil paintings. The then Maharaja presented these works to different royal families and notable persons. Many of his paintings of kings and renowned persons are in the possession of some of the older quasi-royal families of Mysore as well as Mutts. Among his finest creations is the 7ft x 12ft likeness in oil of the Maharaja’s last Durbar, displayed even now at Jaganmohan Palace.
Ramanarasiah retired in 1960. He was given the sinecure as the Superintendent of Jayachamarajendra School of Painting till 1978. Artists do not put away the palette or camel hair brushes even after they attain 60 years of age. They go on and so did Ramanarasiah.
Impressed by Ramanarasiah’s depth of knowledge and his artistic creativity, the scion of the royal family Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar installed him as the ‘Guru’ of the newly founded Sri Jayachamarajendra Traditional Mysore School of Painting (1981). He was also the curator of Jaganmohan Palace.
Ramanarasiah is adept in both oils and water colours but he went ahead to master the unique Tanjore and the Mysore Schools of paintings. He also learnt painting on glass sheets and ‘Chikani’ style on ivory surface.
Through the years of experimentation with colours, his knowledge of chemistry came in handy. He is even credited with discovering that fine squirrel-hair brushes were ideal for water co-lours. His well-known illustrations are depictions of incidents from Ramayana, Mahabharata, the 18 Puranas, the Upapuranas and the scenes from epics like Rama's coronation, Girija Kalyana, Dashavatara, Gajendra Moksha, Raja Rajeshwari etc. He has also written a monograph on 'Ayurveda Medicines.'
Ramanarasiah's works have been displayed at many exhibitions in several cities in India and abroad. He has been honoured many times — during the 1981 and 1993 Dasara celebrations and by the Lalitha kala Academy in 1993 and 1985. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar has also presented many rewards for his works.
Ramanarasiah says, "Perfection is very important for an artist. Even today I create the colours and brushes that I need and use. I don’t prefer ready-made materials."
Ramanarasiah has eight children. His son S.N. Simha, an engineer, eldest daughter Sudha Venkatesh who lives in Bangalore and Chandrika are also adept in Mysore traditional painting.
Portrait of B.S. Pandit, founder-Secretary of Geetha Shishu Shikshana Sangha, painted by S.N. Simha and Ramana-rasiah. It will be unveiled in GSSS Women's Engineering College, Mysore.