Renowned artist K M Vasudevan Namboothiri, fondly known as Artist Namboothiri, has left a lasting legacy with his iconic illustrations that breathed life into numerous mythical characters in Malayalam literature. The artist, aged 97, passed away in the early hours of Friday at Kottakkal in Malappuram district, leaving behind a void in the artistic community.
Artist Namboothiri emerged as a visionary who paved the way for a remarkable era of painting and sculpture in Kerala with his extraordinary three-dimensional drawings. Born on September 13, 1925, in Ponnani, he began honing his artistic skills at a tender age, sketching characters from his village using charcoal pieces on the walls of his house. Additionally, during his childhood, he also received lessons in Sanskrit and traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
His talent caught the attention of the renowned artist Varikkasseri Krishnan Namboothiri, who facilitated his admission to the Madras College of Fine Arts. There, he was nurtured and mentored by legendary figures like KCS Panikker. Artist Namboothiri had the privilege of bringing to life the epic characters created by celebrated writers such as M T Vasudevan Nair and V K Narayanankutty Nair (VKN).
Notably, M T Vasudevan Nair once remarked that the readers of his novel “Randamoozham” envisioned the character Bheema through Artist Namboothiri’s distinctive line sketches. VKN even hailed him as the ‘paramasivan of drawings’ for his exceptional talent. The artist’s line sketches beautifully captured the essence of Kerala’s rustic life, evoking simplicity and grace.
In addition to his skills as an illustrator, Artist Namboothiri also excelled as a sculptor, working with various media such as wood, metal, stone, cement, and clay. His artwork infused life into numerous characters found in stories and novels that were serialized by esteemed literary magazines like Samakalika Malayalam, Kala Kaumudi, and Mathrubhumi.
The artist received widespread appreciation for his illustrations based on Sankaracharya’s “Soundarya Lahari,” which was commissioned by the renowned actor Mohanlal. Moreover, he served as the art director for director Aravindan’s acclaimed movies like “Utharayanam” and “Kanchana Seetha.” His contributions to the field of art were recognized with prestigious awards such as the Raja Ravi Varma Award from the Kerala Lalita Kala Akademi and the State Institute of Children’s Literature Award.
Artist Namboothiri is survived by his wife, Mrinalini, and his sons, Parameswaran and Vasudevan. His passing has been met with heartfelt condolences from notable figures, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who acknowledged his iconic artwork, creativity, and efforts to promote history and culture.
The demise of Artist Namboothiri marks the end of an era in the art world. His mesmerizing illustrations and contributions to the cultural landscape of Kerala will forever be cherished. As we bid farewell to this visionary artist, let us remember the indelible mark he has left on the artistic realm and the inspiration he has provided to countless aspiring artists.
Watch: Artist Namboothiri Interview