Art Exhibition

Varna Mythri – A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by Rumale Chennabasaviah (1910-88) Painter-Laureate from Karnataka

Venue: National Gallery of Modern Art, Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai- 400032, Maharashtra

Inauguration Time: Friday, 1st March, 2024 at 5:30 p.m.
Exhibition on view from: 02nd March to 15th April 2024
Tuesday to Friday from 11 am – 6:00 pm.
Saturday and Sunday from 11 am – 8:00 pm.
Closed on Monday and National Holidays.

About the Artist

Rumale Chennabasaviah (1910-1988) is described as “the painter laureate” by the eminent scholar in Kannada and English literatures. Vinayaka Krinshna Gokak (1909-1992) himself honoured with the Padmashree (1961) and Jnanpeeth Award (1990).

Rumale was born in Doddaballapura, a city about40 km from Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore). He is known by his family name Rumale. Afterbasic training in art and completing his Higher-Grade exams in painting, Rumale joined India’s freedom struggle. He served as a Satyagrahi, amember of the Legislative Assembly (1952-60), and editor of wellknown Kannada daily Thayinadu (1956-60). He came back to painting full time in 1962.

Rumale dedicated the next two decades to pursuing his craft. With no mentors or tutors, he taught himself to paint in both water colours and oils. He polished his skills by observing from nature and working diligently every day. He travelled to several places in Karnataka recording natural scenes and regularly painted flowering trees, bushes and creepers in his neighbourhood in Bangalore. Some of these paintings are exceptionally large watercolours.

Neither subscribing to the tradition modes of painting nor the modern styles of his time, Rumale struck a highly subjective path in the art of Karnataka. Painting nature in urban settings and informed by his spiritual persuasions he expanded the scope of easel painting: crafting a rich pictorial idiom he perceived art and nature as integral to the social life– a legacy that is cherished and enduring in present times.


The first Retrospective of the artist, Rumale Chennabasaviah was held in the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru (Dec 18, 2011- January 31, 2012,). Through a selection of eighty works, a major collection of his paintings and drawings were introduced to the audience. His individual approach to oil painting and watercolour was presented thematically. Supplementary materials on view included his painting tubes, palette knives and brushes and a selection of art books that he referred. Apart from putting up exclusive video interviews and chronology, an exhibition catalogue was also brought out by the NGMA Bengaluru. The exhibition was so popular that it was extended after the due date and till February 19, 2012.

After a decade later, NGMA is hosting this Retrospective of the artist to the Mumbai audiences. Although it carries the same title as the earlier one, the current Retrospective follows an entirely a new story line. It also includes some of the artist’s works never displayed before. The audio-visual materials here include new content tailored for this Retrospective.

About the Exhibition

The Mumbai Retrospective keeps in mind the new audience, who are not familiar with Rumale’s art. It is also curated in such a way as to offer fresh insights to the present-day art practices: as a concerned citizen Rumale has expanded the scope of art practise beyond its aesthetic appeal. Along four sections, seventy original paintings, nine drawings and three digital prints will be on view at NGMA, Mumbai Following a chronological sequence –1960s, 1970s, 1980s and Biography – a selection of water colours and oils will be on display. New texts will outline the ways in which the artist engaged himself with the natural world of the urban Bangalore where he lived and worked. The texts also bring out the ways in which his art works continue to enchant the viewers as original and fresh pictorial records. New audio-visual materials will be included to augment the exhibition experience.


Today we are used to keeping journals, sketching and photographing our cities. Rumale as early as the 1960s pioneered such a focus in his fond and close attention to the natural heritage of a major Indian city, Bengaluru. For the next two decades, he produced a number of paintings, some of which are astonishingly huge watercolours. He has left behind a rich artistic corpus of works. In a city that has lost much of its greenery to senseless urbanization, Rumale’s paintings also serve as visual records to remind us of what we have lost and what should be the priority for the future.

Target audience

Artists, art students, the youth, and concerned citizens who chronicle their neighbourhoods, care for a meaningful urban lifestyle, nature enthusiasts among others.

About the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai

The National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai was opened to the public on December 23rd, 1996. It is located in the precincts of the former auditorium the Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public Hall (C.J.P. Hall) and the Institute of Science. This architecturally marvellous building was designed and built by the famous British architect George Wittet in 1911. C. J. Hall was donated to the city of Mumbai in 1911 by Sir Cowasji Jehangir, whose family has gifted the city, no less than four magnificent public buildings.

Only the facade remains of the edifice that was built by George Wittet. This building has been completely redesigned by the famous architect Romi Khosla giving it a spiral spin. The interior with its elegant horse – shoe shaped balconies now exhibit a different look with a central stairway and semi-circular galleries at different levels.

NGMA, Mumbai is home to an incredible collection of one thousand four hundred and fifty-six art works which include paintings, sculptures, graphics and photographs. While the permanent collection includes both Indian and international artists, special focus has been on the Bombay Progressive Artists which includes the artists S.H. Raza, V. S. Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, F. N. Souza and more. However, true to its ethos as an institution that is resolutely focused on India’s contemporary art landscape, it also houses the works of artists like Nalini Malani, Anupam Sud, Vasudeo Kamath, Arpana Caur and sculptures by Himmat Shah, J.K. Chillar and Dilip Mishra.

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