Saturday, December 21, 2013

Raja Ravi Varma OleoGraph or Oleo LithoGraph Print

Raja Ravi Varma 1848-1906

What is Oleograph?
As per dictionary Oleograph is also known by ChromoLithoGraph meaning; Color Lithograph produced laboriously by preparing a separate Stone by hand for each single color to be used and printing one color registering over another color. This is so exhaustive that sometimes as many as 30-40 stones were used to get a single finished print.

Original Litho surface

Why were they called as German Prints?
The technique of lithographic printing was one of the greatest German inventions. This revolutionized mass production in Germany, Europe and had a major impact to the movement of Independence in India during 19th until the beginning of 20th century. 
Before the entry of this, it was cumbersome and tedious process of hand copying or on woodcuts. 
The lure of German lithographs/oleographs depicting Indian subjects was so great that some entrepreneurs imported machinery and also technicians to produce on a mass scale, labelling it as 'Printed in Germany'.

Printing Press imported from Germany
Raja Ravi Varma was one of the most famous of them and set up Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press at Bombay in 1894 unable to cater to the increasing demand of commissioning of his paintings. This was also known as The FAL Press managed by Raja Ravi Varma and his brother Raja Raja Varma.  Financially it was an utter flop and he had to partner initially with the German technician, Fritz Schleicher and employed technician P. Gerhardt to run his press after shifting it to Lonavala.  The Karla, Lonavala Press was later renamed to Malavli Press and was in production until 1980s and got engulfed in the fires. Finally it was sold to Fritz Schleicher. Now in recent times, Schleichers grandson Robert Sandu disposed off the complete treasures to the conservator Vijaynath Shenoy, who will make an archival museum at Manipal Heritage Village.

Litho slab

Final Print

The irony of - "it can happen only in India" is explained by an experts
"I know there are trusts in both Germany and Italy that have been working towards the creation of a Ravi Varma Museum. I cannot, however, believe that the Government of India or the Governments of Maharashtra or Kerala (the two states he was connected to, the first by birth and the other by choosing to live there) have not created museums in his memory or restored his collection of art work," says German Art Historian Peter Bertram, a scholar who was involved with research on the artist's works. 

Artists Signature is etched on the Litho - Batch number on left with Printing Press on the right

You may be wondering how to differentiate an original oleograph print - for detailed information you may visit Golden Tips
Few prints in excellent condition are available for sale at Abode of Creativity - Online Gallery for Contemporary Indian Art


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