Keshavlal Harshadrai Dhruv (1859-1938)
The First Professor of Gujarati
by Ravishankar Raval (1892-1978)
Oil on canvas
48 x 36.2 in. (122 x 92 cm.)
The art movement in portraiture was picking up all across India and Gujarat was no exception. Being a cash rich state, there was a lot of philanthropic activity that took place and the need for portraits to be painted and donated arose. Raval was born at Bhavnagar – Gujarat and went to study at the Sir J. J. School of Art – Bombay. There he was exposed to many prominent writers, thinkers, journalists of that time. He learnt the style of academic naturalism taught at the school and was on his way to becoming a budding portrait painter. However, in the spirit of cultural nationalism gaining ground during the time, he gave up these influences to embrace the revival of Indian art.
He became popular and many known figures in Gujarat engaged his services. He was also given the title of Kalaguru for the remarkable efforts he made towards establishing the status of art in Gujarat, a region often considered to be devoid of culture, and preoccupied only with trade and commerce. He initiated a cultural magazine “KUMAR” in 1924, which is still published at Ahmedabad.
The portrait is of literary scholar, Keshavlal Harshadrai Dhruv also known by his pen name Vanmali. He translated several Sanskrit plays and poetry in Gujarati and taught at Gujarat College, apart from heading several literary organizations.