Swati Tirunal (1820-47) gave the impetus to the traditional pictorial art of Kerala which came to an end with the closing decades of the eighteenth century. Painters from neighboring states were appointed to decorate the walls of royal palaces, Raja Ravi Varma of the royal family was blessed with the supreme gift of painting. Ravi Varma took advantage of the presence of the well known European oil painter, Theodore Jenson in Trivandrum to master the technique of European oil painting. Before long he blossomed into an oil painter of national and international renown. His gifted fingers and fertile brain succeeded in giving shape to innumerable Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon on the canvas in a variety of colors. In fact, the pictures painted by Ravi Varma have come to adorn millions of Hindu homes all over India. They are even today pictures of mass worship.
Raja Ravi Varma was the beacon of inspiration to a host of young painters who continued in the footsteps of the master and produced many works of art. Two other painters who followed the technique of Ravi Varma are Patinjare Madathil Padmanabhan Tampi and Rama Varma of the Mavelikara palace. In modern times, two outstanding Kerala artists have enriched the art of painting by their exquisite works. They are K Madhava Meson and K.C.S Panikkar. The former excelled in the Portrayal of plant and animal life in the manner of Mughal miniatures. Panikkar was a versatile painter who evolved a refreshingly original style of his own. The college of Fine Arts, Trivandrum and some of the schools of Painting have been trying to keep the art of painting alive and active in Kerala.