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Revashankar Sharma (1935 – 2017)
The Master Of Fantasy In The World Of Miniature Painting – A Tribute
Dr. Seema Bhalla

"When I visited Udaipur in 2013, I began my trip by looking for miniature paintings that were being sold in the shops, to the tourists. While I was highly disappointed by the available commercially churned miniature paintings, to my surprise, one of the shopkeepers took out a few miniature paintings from the back of a cupboard, which caught my interest. These paintings were a hybrid of the popular art of around 1920s, bearing no specific resemblance to any school of Rajput painting. "

Shri Revashankar Sharma, born in 1935, into a family of traditional artists of the Nathdwara School of painting, he was trained in the Nathdwara, Kishangarh and Mughal styles of painting. Around 40 years ago, he started to paint compositions for calendars, the copies of which are being printed even till date.

He realized in the 1960s that copy works of miniature paintings were losing their charm and clientele. Hence, he created a unique style of his own which combined elements from popular art, European landscape and Mughal and Rajasthan miniature painting. Belonging to Nathdwara and being a Krishna Bhakt, Radha and Krishna remained the constant protagonists of his themes.

What sets his works apart from the usual miniature paintings are the elements of elaborate fantasized landscapes and perspective. He would place the divine couple in front of a cascading stream of water emerging from a calm lake, behind which would be the serene village, the abode of the divine couple. The lake, filled with fragrant blossoms of lotus flowers, shining in the moonlit night and several cows were a constant part of his compositions. Each and every cow, whether seated in the forefront or the minutest cow emerging from the water in the far background, is executed with detail that can only come from a heart that is immersed in the Bhakti or reverence of Krishna. The playful moon in the night sky, hiding behind the clouds; dancing and prancing peacocks; perched and flying birds; delicately rendered flowers and leaves of bushes and trees, all seem to be the participants in the fantasy world where divine love is being celebrated. Time seems to stand still with a sense of calm and love prevailing all over. Despite night, the entire atmosphere is luminous under the magic of divine glow.

My interaction with Revashankar ji began in 2013. The list that I had compiled for the research for my Ph.D. topic on ‘Contemporary situation of Indian Miniature Painting’, had the names of a few miniature painting artists whom I knew personally, having met them in the 1980s when they were introduced in Crafts museum, New Delhi. However, there were several others whom I had not even heard of at that point of time. All the artists were wide spread in the region of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, in and around Delhi and I was going to visit each and every one of them, in their studios, regardless of how remote and inaccessible were their places. Before I started extensive travel for my research in March 2010,

I wanted to collect some information and contacts of the artists whom I did not know. Among such names was the name of Shri Revashankar Sharma. Interestingly, the artists in the region of Rajasthan, whom I met in my first phase of research, feigned ignorance about him. However, one of the reputed artists, who incidentally is good in his art but is much better in his craft of self-promotion, mentioned that Revashankar ji used to earlier paint miniature paintings but due to adverse commercial circumstances of miniature paintings, had started painting walls which was purposely put across as – a menial ‘painter of walls’ rather than the possibility of practicing traditional art of wall painting. Interestingly, this artist also shared that neither he nor any other artist in his contact had any idea about the city of residence of Revashankar Sharma as he was not a practicing artist anymore. Since I was in the beginning of my research that had no documentation and available written material to refer to, I had no idea as to what would be the outcome of my research.

This information on Revashankar ji made me remove his name from the mainstream artists. However, I decided to meet him, in case I could find his contact, and include in my research the dire course that the Indian miniature artists have been forced to take in the lack of interest in this art. Finally, it was an artist from Himachal Pradesh who gave me the contact of Revashankar ji and told me of him residing in Udaipur.

"My comment on cheap copies of his works selling in the market at very high prices brought a gentle smile on his face and he responded that he was glad that copy work of his style was helping some artists to earn money and feed their families. He did not seem to mind that he was not being given any credit for the style, by the copyists and shopkeepers in the market. "

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