Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao: Mastering the Art of Cubism

Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao: The Transformative Power of Art

The life of Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao is a vivid tapestry of talent, perseverance, and cross-cultural artistry. Born in 1936 in Gudiwada, Andhra Pradesh, India, Rao’s journey from a small town in South India to the global stage is nothing short of inspirational. Known for his pioneering work in cubist painting, Rao’s story is a testament to the transformative power of art and dedication.

Early Life and Education

Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao’s artistic inclination was nurtured early on, influenced by his father, a wood carver turned builder. This familial connection to craftsmanship laid a foundation for Rao’s future in the arts. Despite initially pursuing graduate studies in Accounting and Banking at Andhra University, where he graduated in 1955, his passion for art never waned.

While studying at Andhra University, Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao honed his artistic skills under the guidance of K. Venugopal and later K. Srinivasulu. His commitment led him to secure a government diploma in Fine Arts from Kalakshetra, Chennai, in 1955.

Recognizing his potential, Madhavapeddi Gokhale, the progressive art director at Kalakshetra, encouraged Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao to join the Madras School of Arts and Crafts for advanced training. By 1959, Rao had not only completed a Fine Arts degree but also earned a second graduate degree in Economics from Andhra University.

The Path to Mastery

Rao’s association with the renowned painter K. C. S. Paniker in Chennai played a pivotal role in his artistic development. In 1959, Rao’s journey took a significant turn when he moved to New Delhi on a Government of India research fellowship. This period marked a deepening of his artistic exploration until 1962 when he received the prestigious Commonwealth Fellowship.

The fellowship was a gateway to the United Kingdom, where Rao studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts, University of London, under the mentorship of William Coldstream. This experience broadened his horizons and enriched his artistic vocabulary. By 1965, Rao’s skill and vision had flourished, leading him to a teaching position at London County Council.

Transcontinental Pursuits

In 1967, Rao’s quest for knowledge and experience led him to the United States. He pursued a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at the University of Cincinnati, graduating in 1969. Concurrently, he served as a teaching assistant, imparting his knowledge to budding artists. This phase culminated in a professorship at Western Kentucky University, where Rao influenced a new generation of artists.

Rao’s lithographs and paintings garnered international acclaim, finding their way into prestigious collections, including those of Herbert Read, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His exhibitions, often co-hosted with luminaries like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Jackson Pollock, solidified his status as a significant figure in modern art.

Recognition and Legacy

The accolades and honors bestowed upon Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao are a testament to his impact on the art world. In 1962, he received the Lord Croft Award, and by 1965, he was celebrated as The Most Outstanding Artist in the Commonwealth at the Second Commonwealth Biennial of Abstract Art Exhibition in London.

Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao’s contributions to art were further recognized with an honorary doctorate (DLitt, Honoris Causa) from the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad.

In 2001, the Government of India honored Siramdasu Venkata Rama Rao with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, acknowledging his exceptional contributions to art and culture. His biography is featured in esteemed publications like Outstanding Educators of America and Washington DC, highlighting his influence as both an artist and an educator.

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