Artist Namboothiri, doyen of line sketches, passes away

Artist Namboothiri. File photo: Manorama

Kottakkal: K M Vasudevan Namboothiri, who defied conventional wisdom to etch an iconic aura to his varied sketches, passed away on Friday. He was under treatment at a private hospital in Kottakkal for age-related ailments. He was 97.

Artist Namboothiri, as he was affectionately called, was the doyen of line sketches. He represented the golden chapter in Kerala's painting and sculpture history.

Many of the brilliant characters in Malayalam literature came to life through Namboothiri's drawings. “It was not my Bhima that people saw in 'Randamoozham', but his”, said M T Vasudevan Nair. VKN referred to him as the ‘Paramashivan' of line sketches.

Namboothiri stormed into the art scene at a time when readers and illustrators couldn’t think beyond Raja Ravi Varma and his artistry. Namboothiri’s illustrations, especially his line drawings, recalled Kerala's robust heritage.

Not just colour palette, he left his mark through his creations in wood, metal, stone, cement and clay. Namboothiri also reflected the simplicity and purity of life in his art.

Artist Namboothiri busy with a drawing. File photo: Manorama

Born in 1925 to Parameswaran Namboothiri and Sridevi Antharjanam, he started drawing at a very young age. He belonged to Karuvattu Illam of Ponnani.

He studied Sanskrit and traditional medicine as a youngster. He began drawing line sketches using charcoal on the walls of his house and the sand in the temple courtyard.

Bhima's illustration in MT Vasudevan's Randamoozham by Artist Namboothiri. File Photo: Manorama

Seeing his interest in drawing, famous sculptor and painter Varikkasseri Krishnan Namboothiri took him to the Madras College of Fine Arts. There, he became a disciple of luminaries like K C S Panicker, Roy Chaudhary and S Dhanapal.

He was closely associated with Panicker when the latter established Kalagram in Cholamandalam.

He joined Mathrubhumi in 1960 after returning to Kerala. He illustrated novels and short stories of legendary writers including MT and VKN.

Artist Namboothiri. File photo: Manorama

He also worked in Kalakaumudi and Samakalila Malayalam.

It is no secret that writers, including MT, wanted Namboothiri to draw for their stories and novels.

Many works, which are now considered pillars of Malayalam literature, reached the readers with Namboothiri's drawings. His illustrations for MT's 'Randamoozham' and VKN's 'Pithamahan' and 'Payyan Kathakal' are famous.

Many of his paintings too are as famous as his sketches. Celebrities including Mohanlal are fans of Namboothiri.

His painting based on Shankaracharya's Soundaryalahari, done at Mohanlal's request, is much celebrated.

Mohanlal and Artist Nampoothiri during a shoot for Bashaposhini at the actor's residence in Ernakulam. File photo: Manorama

He also worked as the art director for renowned director Aravindan's films 'Uttarayanam' (for which he won an award for best art direction) and 'Kanchanaseeta'.

The autobiography published in Bhashaposhini, the literary magazine from the Malayala Manorama stable, also proved his ability to wield letters.

He has worked as the president of Kerala Lalithakala Akademi.

Artist Namboothiri. File Photo: Manorama
A painting of the last supper by Artist Namboothiri. File Photo: Manorama

He has received many honours including the Raja Ravi Varma Award instituted by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi and the Children's Literature Award of the State Institute of Children's Literature.

He is survived by his wife Mrinalini and sons Parameswaran and Vasudevan.

Artist Namboothiri
A sketch of the Thrissur Pooram by Artist Namboothiri. File photo: Manorama
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