Kalaguru Ravishankar Raval
|Born||1 August 1892
Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Ravishankar Raval (1892–1977) was a painter, art teacher, art critic, journalist and essayist from Gujarat, India. He worked for the magazine Vismi Sadi until it closed in 1921, and then founded the cultural magazine Kumar.
The artist Ravishankar Raval was given the title of Kalaguru (in Sanskrit, meaning a grand master of art) by the well-known Gujarati author Kakasaheb Kalelkar for the remarkable efforts he made towards establishing the status of art in Gujarat, a region often considered to be devoid of culture, and preoccupied only with trade and commerce. Raval's efforts towards art education in this state produced a completely new cadre of accomplished young artists. Even today, a large number of his students are teaching art in the schools of Gujarat.
Ananda Coomaraswamy, E.B. Havell and Rabindranath Tagore took great pains to make Indian artists and art lovers understand and take inspiration from Indian art and not to cling to the British academic style of the British Raj. In Gujarat, Kalaguru Raval made great efforts in the same direction and brought about the renaissance of Indian art. Although his formal art training took place under the principal Cecil Burns of J.J.School of Art, he evolved his own rich style, inspired by the ancient Indian classical painting traditions.
Ravishankar Raval was born on 1 August 1892 at Bhavnagar. As his father was an officer in the British Post and Telegraph Service, the family was transferred often from town to town, which gave the young Ravishankar many opportunities to meet a wide cross-section of the folk culture of Gujarat. In his diary, he writes, "No one in my family was an artist so I cannot claim a direct heritage of art from any one. However, I received my artistic instincts from my mother. She was a cultured and well-organized person. I would say that I got my art psyche from her".
During his first university year at the local Arts College, his principal asked him to paint the stage sets for the college drama festival. He was pleased with young Raval's work and remarked, "Young man, do not waste your time here, go to Bombay and join the art school." When he expressed his wish to study art to his father, the seasoned government bureaucrat responded, "Be practical. Be an engineer. Drawing doodles would not get you anywhere." But ultimately the artist in Ravishankar won over the engineer, and he procured admission in J.J.School of Arts at Bombay a major cosmopolitan city compared to his hometown.
Besides an exceptionally brilliant school career at J.J.School of Arts, the student Ravishankar was exposed to the prominent writers, thinkers, journalists of that time. Though a promising student of the academic naturalism taught at the J. J. School and a budding portrait painter, Raval gave up these influences to embrace the revival of Indian art that was then gaining ground. In the spirit of cultural nationalism, he held on to these ideas, despite harsh criticism (e.g. the Rajput-art-style painting for which he won the Bombay Art Society gold medal was dismissed by one artist as 'a printed label on mill cloth').
In 1915, Raval met a prominent journalist Hajji Mohammad Alarakhiya, who was looking for a young artist-illustrator for his new cultural magazine Vismi Sadi(20th Century). Hajji gave him the job. That contact gave a brand new purpose to his life mission. He worked for Vismi Sadi for many years until its closing with the premature death of its creator Haji Mohammad in 1921. Though Hajji's death was a terrible blow to young artist Raval, he was inspired to start an avant-garde cultural magazine "KUMAR" at Ahmedabad in 1924, which is still being published 79 years later. The magazine is said to have made a great impact on Gujarati arts, and was known for its illustrations and experiments in typography.
Other noteworthy work includes the remarkable artwork in Chandapoli a Gujarati children's magazine, Kailash ma ratri (A night at Mt.Kailash). Raval illustrated Bawlana Parakramo (1939), a Gujarati adaptation of the Pinocchio story. He also drew many sketches of Hemchandracharya, Chandra kaumudi, Akho and the characters of Kanaiyalal Munshi's novels.
Some of Ravishankar Raval's work can be seen in his autobiography, Gujarat Ma Kala Na Pagran which was reissued in 2010.
Following are the outstanding milestones of his life:
- 1909 High school graduation. Marriage with his lifelong wife Ramaben
- 1916 Mayo Gold Medal at Sir J. J. School of Art
- 1917 Gold medal from the Bombay Art Society
- 1918 onwards till his death in 1977; Ravishankar Raval lived in the city of Ahmedabad with an ever-increasing involvement in the art world.
- 1919 Started an art school in Ahmedabad in the ancient tradition of Gurukul, which never charged tuition fees. Even poor students received free art supplies.
- 1923 Second prize in art-in-industry Expo at Calcutta
- 1924 Launch of the cultural magazine KUMAR
- 1930 Endowed with the prestigious literary Ranjitram Gold Medal for his art essays
- 1936 Three months art tour of Japan
- 1941 Art tour of Tagore's university Santiniketan
- 1941 President of Art Society of India
- 1941 President of Bombay Art Society
- 1948 House guest of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich at his Kulu art center
- 1951 All India Art Conference at Calcutta
- 1952 Art tour of Soviet Russia
- 1965 Nehru Award for his book on Russia
- 1965 Government of India honoured him with the title Padma Shri
- 1970 Fellow of the Indian Art Academy
- 1977 Died peacefully after a short sickness at 11 a.m. in his own house CHITRAKOOT at Ahmedabad. After taking leave of his lifelong devoted wife Ramaben, he closed his eyes with the ultimate sound of the holy mantra "Aum Namah Shivay" (Homage to Lord Shiva) on his lips.
- Mitter, Partha (2007). The triumph of modernism: India's artists and the avant-garde, 1922–1947. Reaktion Books.
- Das, Sisir Kumar. History of Indian Literature: .1911–1956, struggle for freedom : triumph and tragedy. Sahitya AKademi.
- Vachharajani, Anita (30 November 2005). "Pinocchio in Ahmedabad".