In a saddening news for the art community, K M Vasudevan Namboothiri, popularly known as Artist Namboothiri, breathed his last at the age of 97 in Kottakkal, Malappuram district. His unique three-dimensional sketches brought to life countless mythical characters from Malayalam literature and played a pivotal role in shaping a golden era of painting and sculpture in Kerala. Despite battling age-related ailments, the illustrious artist continued to inspire and create until the end.
Early Life and Talent Emergence
Artist Namboothiri was born on September 13, 1925, in Ponnani, to Parameswaran Namboothiri and Sridevi Antharjanam of Karuvattu Illam. From a young age, he exhibited an innate talent for art, sketching line illustrations of people he encountered in his village using charcoal pieces on the walls of his house. During his formative years, he also received lessons in Sanskrit and traditional Ayurveda medicine.
Guidance and Mentorship
Artist Namboothiri’s artistic journey took a significant turn when he was taken under the wing of the renowned artist Varikkasseri Krishnan Namboothiri. With Krishnan Namboothiri’s guidance, he enrolled in the Madras College of Fine Arts, where he honed his skills under the mentorship of legendary artists such as KCS Panikker. This period played a pivotal role in shaping his distinctive style and vision.
Breathing Life into Literary Characters
The contributions of Artist Namboothiri in bringing literary characters to life cannot be overstated. Legendary writers like M T Vasudevan Nair and V K Narayanankutty Nair (VKN) entrusted him with the task of illustrating their iconic characters. M T Vasudevan Nair himself commended Namboothiri’s portrayal of Bheema in his acclaimed work “Randamoozham,” as his line sketches possessed a unique and recognizable quality. VKN, too, hailed him as the ‘paramasivan of drawings.’
The Captivating Simplicity of Kerala’s Rustic Life
Namboothiri’s line sketches possessed a remarkable power that captured the essence of Kerala’s rustic life, embracing its simplicity and authenticity. As a versatile artist, he worked with various media including wood, metal, stone, cement, and clay. His drawings breathed life into numerous characters from serialized stories and novels featured in literary magazines like Samakalika Malayalam, Kala Kaumudi, and Mathrubhumi.
Recognition and Accomplishments
Throughout his illustrious career, Artist Namboothiri received well-deserved recognition and honors for his exceptional contributions to the world of art. His illustrations based on Sankaracharya’s “Soundarya Lahari,” created at the request of actor Mohanlal, garnered immense appreciation.
Additionally, he served as the art director for director Aravindan’s acclaimed movies, including “Utharayanam” and “Kanchana Seetha.” Notably, he was honored with the Kerala Lalita Kala Akademi’s Raja Ravi Varma Award and the State Institute of Children’s Literature Award.
With the passing of Artist Namboothiri, the art community mourns the loss of a visionary illustrator whose work will continue to inspire generations to come. His distinctive style, attention to detail, and ability to breathe life into literary characters have left an indelible mark on the rich tapestry of Malayalam literature. Artist Namboothiri’s legacy will forever be cherished, and he is survived by his wife Mrinalini and sons Parameswaran and Vasudevan. Read full biography here.