Illustrator Raja Ravi Varma has a meme account that comes up second on Instagram when his name is searched. The account brings the works of pre-modern (and royal) painters into the twenty-first centurystreet Horn with a cheeky line or a simple note. The latter proves this even in his book 175y In the year of birth, Raja Ravi Varma can connect with Gen Z and Millennials as well as art lovers and collectors.

Last month, Jaipur Watch Company, a local watch company, also celebrated a decade as a brand. To mark the occasion, it has teamed up with the Kilimandur Arts Palace Trust to unveil a series of 14 limited edition timepieces. Each features digital prints of some of the famous painter’s works on the clock face. When deciding to use the works, Mehta says: “Some of the clocks couldn’t accommodate the vertical panels, which we wanted to use, but technically it was impossible, because you would take up a lot of the panel space.” The final collection of 112 watches is governed by an automatic movement, and features a sapphire case and a sapphire stone on the crown.

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This collaboration is the first of its kind for JWC, and founder Gaurav Mehta says: “It just happened.” After speaking with the Kilimanoor Palace Art Trust, formed by the painter’s descendants to preserve and promote the painter’s art and culture in general, the idea took 7 months to come to fruition, with a grand launch in August in Jaipur.

It is no surprise that Indian art is taking center stage, especially with local pride at an all-time high, for artists across the ages. Across product ranges, artists come together with brands to bring a different feel to their product range. In the past, Thukral and Tagra have teamed up with Rado. However, this is the first time that two Indian names in the field of art and watchmaking have collaborated. International brands are known for this, points out Natasha Jeyasinghe, art consultant and founder of Carpe Art, citing Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama as the most popular, thanks to the Japanese artist’s signature polka dots.

Celebrating Raja Ravi Verma

Ravi Varma, who also had a unique style, which saw him paint Indian subjects using the European oil painting technique, was also someone who democratized art, setting up a printing press and making reproductions of calendars that benefited from his art. This new collaboration is, in some ways, part of the artist’s ethos. While he gained a certain degree of fame in his lifetime, the art world has exploded in the past three decades. As a result, the fame of Indian artists has increased. This year alone, his painting ‘Yashoda Krishna’ was sold at auction for Rs 38 crore. Not bad for the aristocrat, who made his living as a painter before becoming a businessman when he set up his printing press.

Read also: How Raja Ravi Varma’s art is the link between him and Indian cinema

It is no surprise, then, that his work serves as an inspiration in the world of fashion and beyond. Nearly two centuries after his death, Ravi Varma’s work has become relevant but also serves as a visual bridge between Indian motifs and European style. The unforgettable fashion designer Gaurang Shah had 33 paintings of the artist woven into the sari. The hand-woven textiles used 600 colors of dye and were executed in a jamdani weave pattern – without any decoration added. Last year, his works were auctioned off as NFTs as well, proving that even established artists have appeal in the Metaverse.

Collaboration in many ways democratizes the painter’s art, drawing parallels with his experience with the printing press, explains Rama Varma Thampuran, a sixth-generation descendant of the painter, and chairman of the Kilimanoor Palace Arts Trust, explains. “His paintings reached almost all households, and that was his goal,” explains Thampuran. “Through merchandise too, we can remember Ravi Varma,” he says pragmatically, and these collaborations thus democratize and commemorate the painter.

As a result, the collection brings together two distinct yet profound Indian worlds. Like an Instagram meme account, it collects Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings on one wrist, a daily reminder of his life and work.

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