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Remembering Maruthi: Master of Wash Art and a Visionary Illustrator Passes at 85

The world of art mourns the loss of a legendary artist, Maruthi, renowned for his mesmerising wash art and captivating illustrations that graced the pages of popular Tamil magazines for several decades. With his unique style and unparalleled talent, Maruthi brought life to the stories and novels, especially highlighting the emotions and essence of women characters. Let us delve into the journey of this artistic genius, his remarkable contributions to the art world, and the impact he left on Tamil literature and cinema.

Early Life and Passion for Art

Maruthi, originally named Ranganathan, was born to Marathi parents, D Venkoba Rao and Padmavati Pai, in Pudukkottai in 1938. Even as a young child, his fascination with art was evident as he sketched using chalks at home. Completing his schooling until the 10th standard, Maruthi realised his true calling lay in becoming a painter and illustrator. Thus, at the age of 19, he embarked on a journey of creativity that would define his life and legacy.

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Courtesy: Maruthu facebook

The Journey to Chennai

In pursuit of his dreams, Maruthi moved to Chennai in 1959, hoping to establish himself as an artist. He found his initial foothold by joining a banner designing company in Mylapore, where he skillfully designed movie posters, earning a modest monthly salary of Rs 50. His dedication and passion for art quickly gained recognition, and Maruthi’s work began to shine through.

Masters of Wash Art

Maruthi was a master of wash art, a water painting technique that involved using diluted paint or ink to create semi-transparent paintings. His illustrations were vibrant, exuding life and perfectly capturing the essence of the stories they accompanied, with a particular focus on portraying the emotions of the female characters. The dusky tone, wide eyes, and expressive faces of his characters became his signature style, loved by readers and writers alike.

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Courtesy: Maruthu facebook

Tamil Magazines and Novels

For several decades, prominent Tamil magazines, including Vikatan, Kumudham, and Kungumam, featured Maruthi’s captivating illustrations in their stories and novels. Renowned writers like Balakumaran and Sujatha had their novels adorned with his artwork on the covers, which further solidified Maruthi’s place as an essential part of Tamil literary culture. His first illustration, published in Kumudham magazine for the story “Ayyo Paavam,” marked the beginning of a prolific career.

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Courtesy: Maruthu facebook

Collaboration with M Karunanidhi and Tamil Cinema

Maruthi’s talent and versatility extended beyond illustrations and wash art. He collaborated with former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, working as a costume designer for the Tamil film “Uliyin Osai,” released in 2008. His sketches also found their way into some of Karunanidhi’s books, showcasing the depth of his artistic abilities. Maruthi’s association with the world of Tamil cinema added another dimension to his illustrious career.

Accolades and Recognition

Throughout his journey, Maruthi’s unparalleled artistic skills earned him widespread acclaim and recognition. He was honored with Tamil Nadu’s highest civilian award, the Kalaimamani award, in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the world of art. Both MGR and Karunanidhi played instrumental roles in supporting Maruthi’s artistic endeavors, offering projects and providing housing assistance.

Legacy and Farewell

Maruthi’s artistic brilliance left an indelible mark on the hearts of Tamil people, and his paintings were treasured by many. He maintained an active presence on social media, sharing his art regularly until his last post on June 29. As the news of his passing spread, Chief Minister M K Stalin and veteran actor Sivakumar expressed their condolences, acknowledging Maruthi’s invaluable contributions to art and literature. Sivakumar lamented the fact that despite his extraordinary talent, Maruthi’s financial situation remained challenging until the end.

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Courtesy: Maruthu facebook


Maruthi’s departure marks the end of an era, leaving behind a void in the world of wash art and illustration. His art breathed life into countless stories and novels, capturing the hearts of readers and leaving a lasting impact on Tamil culture. As we bid farewell to this artistic genius, we remember Maruthi as a visionary illustrator and a true master of wash art, whose creations will continue to inspire and enchant generations to come.

Feature image: Maruthu facebook

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