Raghoothama Putty

Raghoothama Putty was born on 13th September 1914 near Tumkur in Karnataka to Putty Kuppu Rao and Kaveramma. Known in the art circles by his family name ‘Putty’, he had his talents recognised and nurtured by his mother who was adept in Rangoli and hand embroidery.

Putty was greatly influenced by the Rangoli works of his mother. Though his father wanted him to take to formal education and land himself in a ‘respectable’ job, Putty had other ideas in his mind. His mother’s Rangoli’s influenced him so much that he decided to become an artist.

Putty’s childhood was spent in Tumkur and Bangalore where his mother created works of art with Rangoli. Encouraged by his mother Putty copied these on paper. Kaveramma his mother was very religious and a devotee of god and naturally she drew the pictures of different gods using Rangoli. Naturally Putty’s first sketches were of different gods. Later in his life, he prepared sketches for his mother’s embroideries.

Putty’s father, Kuppu Rao was in Mysore Government service and therefore transferred to different places. One such transfer was to Nagamangala, which was, during those days famous for its bronzes (images created out of bronze) and young Putty was greatly influenced by the bronzes of Nagamangala. He felt that he should produce on paper, drawings and sketches, the bronzes of Nagamangala. He therefore decided to learn drawing and painting. Luckily for him his father was transferred to Bangalore from Nagamangala. Artist A N Subba Rao was running a school of arts called Kalamandira in Bangalore and Subba Rao admitted Putty to his school. This admission was without the knowledge of the senior Putty. To Putty’s misfortune, his father came to know of his attending classes at Kalamandira and just three months after joining the school, he had to leave it, so as not to incur the wrath of his father. To Putty’s luck however, drawing and painting was one of subjects in school curriculum and this enabled him to be in touch with his loved field.

Putty failed in the matriculation examination and that was the end of his formal education. The desire to learn drawing and painting took him to Madras to join an art school there but fate had willed otherwise and he started learning textile manufacturing. It is to his credit that he did not lose hope, and somehow managed to land in Mysore to join the famed Chamarajendra Technical Institute. He was 25 then.

Famous artists of Karnataka like M S Chandrashekar, S V Somasundar and S Kalappa were his classmates while M T V Acharya was his senior. Legends like Tankasale, Subrahmanyaraju and Krishnaiah were his teachers. Learning continued without any impediment for about three months. But Putty was forced to leave the Institute- this time because one of his teachers did not take kindly to his painting a picture in school, which was not in the syllabus! Thus ended his training in drawing and painting.

Family circumstances forced him to take up a job and he got employed in Oriental Research Institute, Mysore but the desire to learn drawing and painting continued. Luckily for him his classmates at Chamarajendra Technical Institute M S Chandrashekhar and S V Somasundar and M T V Acharya continued their stay in Mysore and the four became friends. They went to different places for landscaping. Somasundar and Putty became very close friends and Somasundar shaped Putty into an artist. Unfortunately Putty could not devote much time to painting because of his employment.

It was only after retirement in 1972 that Putty took to painting, seriously. A remark by a senior artist of the state in 1974 that Putty could not even show a single piece of work, swung Putty into action. He was 60 then and there was no looking, till he died at the age of 92. He immersed himself so much in his chosen field that those who had ridiculed him became his devotees, and called him the ‘Pride of Mysore’!

Putty had selected six different themes for painting namely:

  1.  Old, dilapidated temples and buildings
  2.  Temples of the Hoysala period with intricate carvings
  3.  Sceneries related to village life
  4.  Natural scenes with foliage
  5.  Portraits and
  6.  Gods, Goddesses and saints.


Most of Putty’s works were in water colour and done on the spot travelling the length and breadth of the country for the purpose. Each such painting took him 6 to 7 hours, spread over 3 to 4 days to get the same light and shade. He did several oil paintings too after he was 85 and continued the same till his death at the age of 92. His works at 92 were described by Prajavani, the leading Kannada daily of Karnataka, as a ‘miracle’.

Putty held more than 40 one man shows during his lifetime and participated in several group shows. He exhibited his works in several National and State level exhibitions throughout the country and these won him many prizes.

Honours, Awards and Titles came chasing him, though belatedly. He was a recipient of the Mysore Dasara Exhibition Award (1975-76), All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi Award(1985), Karnataka Lalitakala Academy Award(2001) and the Rotary Award for Excellence(2003). Putty was honoured with the title Chitrakalaabhooshana (1987) by the Karnataka Chitrakala Mahaparishat, Bangalore. He was also honoured by the Sosale Vyasaraja Mutt, Udupi Puttige Mutt, Samskaara Bhaarathi, Mysore, Meera Sangeeta Vidyaalaya, Mysore and Tyagaraja Sangeeta Sabha, Mysore for his contributions to the field of art.

The Lalitakala Academy of Karnataka even brought out a monograph on Putty by Dilip Kumar Kale. Art critics have showered praise on him and a few are re-produced below:

Graceful Paintings’-A sophisticated wash technique which can always infuse a breath of naturalness in water colours marks the paintings of Sri Putty –Deccan Herald, 1974

The artist has shown laudable originality and fineness in the colouring techniques in his works and perspective. Putty is among the senior artists of the state and has a long record of service and achievement. – The Hindu, 1978.

Putty is a good artist. His works are more realistic and attractive.

-Y Subrahmanya Raju, Artist and once a teacher of Putty

I did not know that Putty uses the brush so powerfully. He has recreated the dilapidated temples very beautifully and taken us to those temples.

-Dr M S Nagaraja Rao, Director of Archeology of Museums, Government of Karnataka, Mysore

Putty’s works are natural. They are not works of passtime. His works are labor of love.

-B H Ramachandra, Artist, Mysore

Putty’s works are in the private collection of connoisseurs of arts, in several countries. Many Museums and Art Galleries in India have acquired and exhibited the works of this artist. His sons Srinivasa Putty and Yadupathi Putty have exhibited over 200 paintings of Putty in their home gallery Kaveri Kalaa Kuteera located at 1390, 3rd Main Road, Krishnamurthy Puram, Mysore. Art lovers are always welcome here. (Contact Nos: 0821- 2332904, 2332554, 91-8722502044, 91-9880255920). In addition to the works displayed, there are several works unable to be displayed for want of space in the house.

Putty was not only an artist but worked in various capacities. For livelihood, he worked in the Oriental Research Institute, Mysore where he was respected for his commitment and dedication to work. Apart from this, he worked as joint secretary, and vice-president of the Chitrakala Sangha, Mysore. He was a Member of the Jury in the Dasara Exhibition for five years and was an active Member of the Chitrakala Mahaparishat of Karnataka.

Despite the fact that Putty was a man with busy schedule, he managed to guide students. He ran a drawing school at his home and also taught at Sri Kalaniketana School of Arts at Mysore. He also taught at several summer camps organised by schools and colleges.

One of Putty’s greatest achievements was finding an artist in his wife Lalita R Putty. He encouraged and guided her in the vanishing craft, hand embrodery.

Several of her works won her prizes (incidentally all of them were First Prizes) in several competitions throughout the country. She even won, the President of India Gold Medal for her work. She has to her credit over 25 pieces, each work consuming nearly a year for completion. Each work of her surpasses the other in terms of finesse and intricacy. How delicately she worked could be gauged by the fact that, in one of her works, Blue jay, there are an unbelievable 22 colours in one inch of embroidery. Lalita R Putty was also referred to as Mrs. Raghuttama Putty and P (Putty) R (Raghuttama) Lalita.

Probably providence brought Raghuttama and Lalita together, for they were made for each other.

Putty’s legacy has continued. His cousin, children and grandchildren have taken to drawing and painting. Though the quantum of work turned out is nowhere near that of Raghuttam Putty’s, they have nonetheless done their bit.

Raghuttama Putty’s cousin Ramachandra Putty started painting at the age of 75 and he turned out nearly 400 Ganeshas each different from the other! His outstanding work was Genealogical Tree of his mother’s side, Descendants of Gyanopanth (AD 1678 to AD 1993), which was totally hand written.

Raghuttama Putty’s daughters Sudha Ananta Murthy, Veda Putty and Nanda R Putty are all capable of very delicate art works. Sudha has a few paintings and embroideries to her credit while Nanda has taken to it more seriously. She has already organised two one man shows of her paintings. She is also very good at hand embroidery and has the sobriquet Needlework Princess. She also uses the medium of Rangoli for creating pieces of art. Her Rangoli show during the Festival of Russia (1987) won her laurels. She is also good at Mysore Traditional art. She teaches drawing and painting during her spare time in her house.

Putty’s eldest son Yatindra Putty does a lot of paintings on pillow covers, curtains and sarees. His other two sons Srinivasa Putty and Yadupathi Putty are connoisseurs of art and music and have organised several music concerts, the former in Tiptur and the latter in Mysore. Yadupathi was even the editor of a monthly, Tillana, brought out by Gana Bharati, Mysore.

Putty’s first daughter-in-law Ms.Sumitra Y Putty, inspired by the works of her mother-in-law Lalita Putty, took to hand embroidery and has created several outstanding pieces.

Putty’s third daughter-in-law Geetha Putty is a performing Carnatic vocalist. An artiste of All India Radio, she has given many recitals throughout Karnataka.

Putty’s granddaughter Ashwini Y Putty does very delicate hand embroidery on sarees. Manasa Putty has taken to drawing and painting seriously, while his other grand children Madhukara Putty, Aarabhi Putty, Aahiri Putty, Aniruddha and Adhokshaja are all connoisseurs of art and music.

Both Nanda and Sumitra have exhibited their works in their respective homes.Those interested in seeing the works of Nanda Putty and Sumitra Y Putty can visit their respective houses. Their addresses are:


#1494,CH 6/2a,Ambedkar road,
Krishnamurthy Pura
Mysore 570004. (Mobile No 9241032032)

9th Main Road, Aalanahally Layout
Mysore 570028. (Mobile No 9886627379/ 9448462948)