Damerla Rama Rao (born March 8, 1897 in Rajahmundry — died February 6, 1925) was an Indian artist.
He was born to Physician Damerla Venkata Rama Rao and Lakshmi Devi as a second child in the group of five girls and four boys. Rao was married to Satya Vani in 1919. He completed his arts course with distinction in 1920.
He was intensely inclined towards the art of painting and sketching since childhood. Rao with his father went to Sisil N. Burns, who was the Dean of arts in Mumbai School of Arts in 1916. The sketches of an untrained, unexposed Rama Rao surprised and impressed the Dean which resulted into his admission directly into the third year of fine arts course.
His works were composed, decorative in nature and always compared to those of Puvs de Chavannes, the post-Impressionist artist of Paris. Rama Rao was spotted by Sir O. J. Couldrey, principal of the Government Arts College, Rajahmundry who took him to Ajanta and Ellora for sketching the frescos and sculptures. It is said that Viceroy Lord Reading was so impressed with Rama Rao’s works that he purchased the painting “Godavari of Eastern Ghats.”
In 1923, Ramarao started rajahmundry chitra kalashala and trained many youngsters. He broke the shackles of contemporary orthodox society of the country at that time by nude paintings. His revolutionary nude paintings were of a lady named nakula. He is one of first artists to paint nude paintings of Indian women. Some of his world-renowned paintings like siddartha ragodayam, pushpaalankarana, kaartika pournami were exhibited and won prizes not only in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta as well as London and Toronto. His paintings can be still found at Damerla Art Gallery situated near the Godavari railway station.
He sent his paintings, Rushya Srunga Bhangam and Turpu Kanumallo Godavari to the exhibition organised by the Oriental Society. The Viceroy of India award was conferred to Rama Rao for his former painting and the latter was purchased by the then Viceroy of India Rufus Daniel Isaacs.
He travelled through various locations in the country and in 1922 settled in Rajahmundry. He instituted the Andhra Society of Indian Arts. He organised a national level art exhibition in Rajahmundry, the first time in the region.
He died on February 6, 1925.
Damerla Rama Rao was an eminent Artist belonging to Rajhmundry, which is the Cultural Head Quarters of the District. His Paintings had a distinct style known as the Andhra School of Indian Art, having semblance to the great Ravi Varma’s Paintings. He died at a premature age of 28 in1925. His Paintings were exhibited at all important Exhibitions in India and abroad also. There are 186 of his Paintings and 34 Paintings of other Artists in the Art Gallery at present at Rajhmundry which is maintained by the Technical Education Department of the Government of Andhra Pradesh. These valuable Paintings were in a state of deterioration and some needed restoration. With the help of the INTACH Hqrs, New Delhi, 7 of them which were badly damaged, were restored at the request of this Chapter.
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, during the valedictory of the Godavari Pushkaram, had announced that the Damerla Rama Rao Art Gallery, a well-known landmark in Rajahmundry, would be restored and renovated.
The heritage art gallery, dedicated to the renowned artist, houses his works such as the 34 fully finished paintings in oil, 129 in water colours, 250 sheets of studies in pencil, 26 sketchbooks and a number of loose sketch sheets. Most of them are hardly visible, thanks to the poor upkeep.
“Major oil paintings such as ‘Krishna Leela’ (1921), ‘Godavari of Eastern Ghats’ (1921) and ‘Milkmaids of Kathiawar’ (1923) are worth crores of rupees,” says Guvvala Kennedy, a popular artist who studied at the Damerla Rama Rao Art School.
The vagaries of nature have taken a heavy toll on popular water colour sketches like ‘Siddartha Ragodayam’ on Gautama Buddha and ‘Nandi Puja’ on the Kakatiyas.
Mr. Rama Rao’s keen interest in painting was spotted by Sir O.J. Couldrey, then principal of the Rajahmundry Arts College, who took him to the Ajanta and Ellora caves for sketching sculptures.