In almost every painting there is a hidden story, right? We have paintings from ancient times. Do you know why and how they painted? And what are the different stages of paintings? Thus this article deal with all the aspects of paintings.
Indian Paintings have a very long tradition and history in Indian Art. Because of the climatic conditions, very few early examples survive. In all historic times (Ancient, Medieval, and Modern) paintings play a significant role.
Indian paintings can be classified as Murals, Miniatures, and Paintings on cloth.
Also read: Pre-historic India: Sources and Major Sites
- The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of pre-historic times, the petroglyphs as found in places like Bhimbetka, Ajanta caves, etc.
- Significance of these paintings: These ancient paintings help us better understand early humans, their way of life, their eating habits, their daily activities, and, most importantly, how they thought.
- Stick-like representations of humans are used. The main animal motifs include a fox, a lizard with many legs, and a creature with a long nose. There are also wavy lines, geometric patterns with filled rectangles, and clusters of dots.
Evolution of prehistoric paintings
The evolution of the prehistoric period consists of Paleolithic, Mesolithic and chalcolithic.
Paleolithic Age Art
The prehistoric period in the early development of human beings is commonly known as the ‘Old Stone Age ’ or ‘Palaeolithic Age ’.
The Paleolithic period can be divided into three phases:
(1) Lower Palaeolithic (2.5 million years- 100,000 years ago)
(2) Middle Palaeolithic (300,000- 30,000 years ago)
(3) Upper Palaeolithic (40,000- 10,000 years ago)
- We did not get any evidence of paintings from the lower or middle paleolithic age yet.
- In the Upper Palaeolithic period, we see a proliferation of artistic activities.
- Subjects of early works were confined to simple human figures, human activities, geometric designs, and symbols.
- The first discovery of rock paintings in the world was made in India (1867-68) by an Archaeologist, Archibold Carlleyle, twelve years before the discovery of Altamira in Spain (the site of the oldest rock paintings in the world).
- In India, remnants of rock paintings have been found on the walls of caves situated in several districts of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Bihar, and Uttarakhand.
- Some examples of sites of early rock paintings are Lakhudiyar in Uttarakhand, Kupgallu in Telangana, Piklihal, and Tekkalkotta in Karnataka, Bhimbetka and Jogimara in Madhya Pradesh, etc.
- Paintings found here can be divided into three categories: Man, Animal, and Geometric symbols.
Some of the characteristics of these are:
- Human beings are represented in a stick-like form.
- A long-snouted animal, a fox, and a multi-legged lizard are the main animal motifs in the early paintings (later many animals were drawn).
- Wavy lines, rectangular-filled geometric designs, and a group of dots also can be seen.
- Superimposition of paintings – earliest is Black, then red, and later White.
- In the late historic, early historic, and Neolithic periods the subjects of paintings developed, and figures like Bulls, Elephants, Sambhars, Gazelles, Sheep, Horses, and styled human beings, tridents, and rarely vegetal motifs began to see.
- The richest paintings are reported from the Vindhya range of Madhya Pradesh and their Kaimurean extension into U.P.
- These hills are fully Palaeolithic and Mesolithic remains.
There are two major sites of excellent prehistoric paintings in India:
(1) Bhimbetka Caves, Foothills of Vindhya, Madhya Pradesh.
(2) Jogimara caves, Amarnath, Madhya Pradesh.
Upper Palaeolithic Period
- Paintings are linear representations, in green and dark red, of huge animal figures, such as Bisons, Tigers, Elephants, Rhinos and Boars beside stick-like human figures.
- Mostly they are filled with geometric patterns.
- Green paintings are of dances and red ones of hunters.
Mesolithic period Art
- The largest number of paintings belongs to this period.
- Themes multiply but the paintings are small in size.
- Hunting scenes predominate
- Hunters in groups armed with barbed spears pointed sticks, arrows, and bows.
- Traps and snares used to catch animals can be seen in some paintings.
- Mesolithic people loved to point to animals.
- In some pictures, animals are chasing men and in others, they are being chased by hunter-men.
- Animals were painted in a naturalistic style and humans were depicted in a stylistic manner.
- Women are painted both nude and clothed.
- Young and old equally find places in paintings.
- Community dances provide a common theme.
- Sort of family life can be seen in some paintings (woman, man, and children).
Chalcolithic period Art
- Copper age art.
- The paintings of this period reveal the association, contact and mutual exchange of requirements of the cave dwellers of this area with settled agricultural communities of the Malwa Plateau.
- Pottery and metal tools can be seen in paintings.
- Similarities with rock paintings: Common motifs (designs/patterns like cross-hatched squares, lattices etc)
- The difference with rock paintings is Vividness and vitality of older periods disappear from these paintings.
Mural & Cave Paintings
Indian murals have a long history that spans from the 2nd century BC to the 8th – 10th centuries AD. More than 20 locations in India are known to have murals from this time period, mostly in the form of natural caves and rock-cut chambers.
Ajanta, Bagh, Sittanavasal, Armamalai Cave, Ravan Chhaya Rock Shelter, and Kailashnath Temple in Ellora Caves are a few locations where this painting can be found.
To know more about Later Mural Traditions click here.
- With the exception of the decorative patterns on the ceilings and pillars, the subjects of these paintings are almost entirely Buddhist.
- They are mostly connected to the Jataka, a collection of tales that describes the Lord Buddha’s earlier lives.
- The earliest paintings at Ajanta are found in cave No. IX and X, and the only one that has survived is a group on cave X’s left wall. This shows a king and his courtiers in front of a flag-draped tree. The King has travelled to the revered Bodhi tree in order to fulfil a vow made to the prince who is present and close to the king.
- One of the masterpieces of Ajanta Painting created in the late 6th century CE is the painting of the Bodhisattva Padmapani from cave I. This magnificently decorated figure is larger than life-size and is depicted pausing slightly while holding a lotus flower in his right hand.
- The painting of Maya Devi, the Buddha’s mother, is a lovely representation of female beauty.
Bagh cave Paintings
- The Ajanta paintings in caves No. I and II match those from the Bagh caves in Madhya Pradesh.
- Both figures share the same form stylistically, but Bagh figures have stronger outlines and are more precisely modelled.
- Compared to those at Ajanta, they are more earthy and human.
- The fragments discovered in Badami Cave No. III, dating to the 6th century A.D., are the earliest Brahmanical paintings that are currently known.
- The Siva and Parvati painting is found to be reasonably well-preserved.
- Although the technique is similar to that of Ajanta and Bagh, the modelling is much more expressive and sensitive in texture, and the outline is flexible and soft.
- The finest examples of the North Indian and Deccan classical traditions can be found in the paintings from Ajanta, Bagh, and Badami.
- These paintings have darkly drawn contours that stand out against a light red background.
- Between the 8th and 10th centuries A.D., a number of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples were carved out of Ellora’s living rock.
- 34 caves total, including 17 Brahmanical, 12 Buddhist, and 5 Jain, are found in the Sahyadri ranges of Maharashtra, about 100 km from Ajanta caves.
- Indra Sabha (Cave 32) and Jagannath Sabha are two well-known Jain caves (Cave 33).
- Sharp features and pointed noises characterize sinewy figures.
Badami cave paintings
- The early Chalukyan dynasty, which ruled the area from 543 to 598 CE was centred in Badami.
- The dedication of the image of Vishnu is included in the inscription in Cave No. 4, which also mentions the years 578 and 579 CE and praises the beauty of the cave.
- This cave has paintings that show scenes from palaces. One depicts Kirtivarman, the elder brother of Mangalesha and the son of Pulakesin I, sitting inside the palace with his wife and feudatories while viewing a dance scene.
- The paintings here have a similar aesthetic to those in Ajanta.
- The fluid forms, sinuously drawn lines, and compact composition demonstrate the artists’ skill and maturity by the sixth century CE.
These paintings feature a variety of subjects, such as animals, fish, ducks, people collecting lotuses from a pond, two dancing figures, etc. In addition, one can discover inscriptions from the 9th and 10th centuries, with Jainism serving as their primary source of inspiration.
Jains texts, female figures, etc. Fresco-secco technique. Eg: Armamalai cave paintings.
Beautiful lotus ponds and flowers, dancing people, lilies, fish, geese, buffaloes, and elephants are all present. A rounded face and wide, fully opened eyes. Eg: Kanchipuram Temple Paintings are patronized by Rajasimha.
The paintings celebrate Lord Shiva.
The works of art depict the Vijayanagara Court’s history and times. Paintings from a secular era decorate the walls of Lepakshi Temple. Eg: Virupaksha Temple, Hampi – consists of the history of the dynasty and stories of Ramayana and Mahabharatha.
It is the extension of Vijayanagara paintings. Depicting the story of Mucukunds, a legendary Chola King.
Kerala Murals Paintings
Inspired by Kathakali and Kalam Ezhuthu. The theme is mostly based on Hindu mythology. Eg: Vadakkunnathan temple, Thrissur, Padmanabhapuram palace, Trivandrum.
Also read: Indian Folk paintings
Medieval Indian Paintings
Medieval Indian paintings consist of miniature, Pala school, Mughal school, Rajasthani school, Bhundi school, Malwa school, Mewar school, Pahari style, Basohli school, Kangra school, Deccani school etc.
As soon as India made direct contact with Islamic civilization, miniature paintings began to fully blossom. The Mughal Empire (1526–1757 AD) brought about the establishment of studios at the Imperial court, which marked the start of a new stage in the development of Indian painting.
From there, paintings such as portraits, genre or celebratory scenes, illustrated manuscripts, album miniatures, and a variety of other subjects travelled throughout India. A significant Persian influence was initially present in Indian miniature painting, but it was only temporary as the Indian artists quickly regained their independence and originality.
Pala School (8th century CE)
- The illustrations of religious texts on Buddhism created under the Palas of eastern India and the Jain texts created in western India during the 11th and 12th centuries A.D. are the earliest examples of miniature painting in India.
- At institutions like Nalanda, Odantapuri, Vikramsila, and Somarupa, a significant number of palm-leaf manuscripts relating to Buddhist themes were written and decorated with pictures of Buddhist deities.
- To receive education and religious instruction, pilgrims and students from all over South-East Asia gathered there. They brought bronzes and manuscripts, which helped spread the Pala style to Nepal, Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka, Java, etc., back to their home countries as examples of Buddhist art from the Pala period.
- The majority of the Pala illustrated manuscripts that have survived are from the Vajrayana School of Buddhism.
- The painting by Pala displays a naturalistic aesthetic and is distinguished by sinuous lines and subdued colour tones.
- The Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita manuscript, also known as the perfection of Wisdom written in eight thousand lines, is one of the best examples. It is kept in Oxford, England.
- After Muslim invaders decimated the Buddhist monasteries in the first half of the 13th century, Pala art abruptly came to an end. Some of the artists and monks made their way to Nepal, where they helped to strengthen the country’s already-strong artistic traditions.
- Colours were used in this form of painting which had symbolic meanings
- In India’s history of painting, the founding of the Mughal School of Painting is regarded as a turning point.
- The Mughal School of Painting began with the establishment of the Mughal empire in the reign of Akbar in 1560 CE, who was keenly interested in the art of painting and architecture.
- A painting studio was established at the start of his reign under the direction of two Persian masters, Mir Sayyed Ali and Abdul Samad Khan, who had previously worked for his father Humayun.
- To work with the Persian masters, a sizable number of Indian artists from all over India were enlisted.
- The Safavid school of Persian painting and the native Indian painting style came together in a harmonious way to form the Mughal style.
- It is primarily aristocratic and secular, characterized by supple naturalism based on careful observation of nature and fine and delicate drawing.
- An illustrated manuscript of the Tuti-Nama in the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA) appears to be the first work of the Mughal School.
- The Mughal style is depicted in this manuscript’s artwork in its early stages. Soon after, between 1564 and 1569 CE, a very ambitious project known as the Hamza-Nama illustrations on cloth was finished. It originally had 1400 leaves in 17 volumes.
- Along with the two Persian masters already mentioned, other well-known painters who worked in Akbar’s court included Dasvanth, Miskina, Nanha, Kanha, Basawan, Manohar, Doulat, Mansur, Kesu, Bhim Gujarati, etc.
- Jahangir had a great fascination for nature and took delight in the portraiture of birds, animals, and flowers.
- Important manuscripts that were illustrated during his reign include the Anwar-i-sunavli, another fable book, and the animal fable book Ayar-i-Danish.
- The famous painters of Jahangir are Aqa Riza, Abul Hasan, Mansur, Bishan Das, Manohar, Goverdhan, Balchand, Daulat, Mukhlis, Bhim, and Inayat.
- The portrait of Jahangir illustrated is a typical example of a miniature executed during the period of Jahangir.
- A series of the Razm-Nama dated 1616 CE, a series of the Rasikapriya (1610-1615), and a series of the Ramayana of circa 1610 CE are some other notable examples of the Mughal School.
- The Gulistan and the Bustan of Sadi, which were copied for the emperor in the first and second years of his reign, and the Shah Jahan Nama, are two notable examples of such manuscripts. Other paintings depicting groups of ascetics and mystics as well as several illustrated manuscripts were also created during his time.
- Being a puritan, Aurangzeb’s reign saw a decline in the quality of painting and a significant loss of that quality. The provincial courts received a large influx of court painters.
- After Aurangzeb’s neglect, there was a revival of Mughal painting during the reign of Bahadur Shah.
- After 1712 CE, the Mughal painting again started deteriorating under the later Mughals.
Akbar, the succeeding Mughal Emperor, constructed an atelier for them to promote the rich art form. These artists, in turn, trained Indian artists who created paintings in a new distinct style inspired by the Mughals’ royal and romantic lives.
Rajput or Rajasthani miniature is a style of miniature created by Indian artists. Several schools of painting emerged during this period, including Mewar (Udaipur), Bundi, Kotah, Marwar (Jodhpur), Bikaner, Jaipur, and Kishangarh.
- The cults of Vaishnavism, Saivism, and Sakti had a huge influence on this school’s pictorial art.
- The various Krishna cults provided a very rich field for the painter, who made a significant contribution to the development of Indian painting with his artistic skill and devotion.
- The Rajasthani School of painting is marked by bold drawings and strong and contrasting colours.
- Figures are rendered flatly, with no attempt to depict perspective in a naturalistic manner.
- To distinguish one scene from another, the surface of the painting is sometimes divided into several compartments of different colours.
- The Mughal era’s influence can be seen in the drawing’s refinement and the introduction of some naturalism in the figures and trees.
- In addition to illustrating Ramayana stories, kings’ and queens’ royal lifestyles were also shown.
- Additionally, they illustrated social norms and the modifications made by kings to advance society. A distinctive aspect of the Rajasthani School was the background of the paintings.
- Paper, ivory, and silk were used as their canvas in this school of painting.
- This style of painting is dated back to 1625 AD
- A painting showing Bhairavi Ragini, in the Allahabad Museum is one of the earliest examples of a Bundi painting.
- Themes from the life of Krishna are a major theme in this school of painting
- An illustration of the aforementioned is found in the late 17th-century poem Rasikapriya, which contains a scene in which Krishna attempts to steal butter from a Gopi. However, when he discovers that the pot only contains a piece of cloth and a few other items, not butter, he realizes that the Gopi has tricked him. Trees can be seen in the foreground and a river is shown in the foreground with wavy lines. Flowers and a pair of waterbirds can be seen in the river. The border of the painting is a stunning shade of red.
- The salient characteristic of this school of painting is the rich and glowing colours, the rising sun in golden colour, crimson-red horizon, overlapping and semi-naturalistic trees
- The delicate drawing of the faces and the use of naturalism in the treatment of the trees are both examples of Mughal influence. On the top, the text is printed in black on a yellow background.
It was most prosperous between 1600 and 1700 CE and is a prime example of Hindu Rajput courts. Malwa School rejects a specific centre for its origin and instead suggests a vast territory of Central India.
This contrasts with the specificity of Rajasthani schools, which emerged and thrived in precise territorial kingdoms and courts of their respective kings. After the 17th century came to an end, this conservative style vanished.
Salient features of this form of painting
- Malwa paintings display a preference for rigidly flat compositions, dark backgrounds (often black or chocolate brown), figures set against solid colour patches, and vibrantly coloured architecture.
- The school’s most appealing features are a primitive charm and a simple childlike vision.
- The first piece in this genre is an illustrated Rasikapriy from 1634, followed by a series of illustrations for the Amaru Ataka, a Sanskrit poem (1652).
- The Bhagavata-Purana, the musical modes (Ragamala), and other Hindu literary and devotional works are also illustrated.
One of the most significant schools of Indian miniature painting from the 17th and 18th centuries is the Mewar painting. It was created in the Hindu principality of Mewar and is a school in the Rajasthani style (in Rajasthan state).
- The works of the school are characterized by simple bright colours and direct emotional appeal.
- The earliest known Mewar painting is a series of Ragamala paintings by Misardi that were created in 1605 CE in Chawand, a small town close to Udaipur.
- Most of the paintings of this series are in the collection of Shri Gopi Krishna Kanoria.
- Through 1680, the expressive and dynamic style persisted in the region with some minor variations, after which the Mughal influence became more pronounced.
- Despite the popularity of religious subjects, portraiture and the life of the ruler occupied an increasing number of paintings.
In sub-Himalayan India through Himachal Pradesh, from Jammu to Almora and Garhwal, the Pahari style developed and thrived between the 17th and 19th centuries. The Pahari paintings can be divided into two categories: Basholi and Kangra School and Jammu or Dogra School.
The bold, intense Basohli Painting, which originated in Basohli in Jammu and Kashmir, and the delicate, lyrical Kangra paintings, which came to be associated with the style before other schools of painting emerged, each produced stark variations within the genre.
- This school of Pahari painting received patronage from Raja Kripal Pal
- Famous works produced by this school include miniatures created in the style of Rasamanjari illustrations by a painter by the name of Devidasa in 1694.
Another well-known illustration from this school of painting dates to 1730 AD and is taken from a series of paintings by Manaku of the Gita Govinda.
The facial type changes, becoming a little heavier, and the tree forms take on a more naturalistic appearance, possibly as a result of the Mughal painting’s influence.
In this miniature, it is possible to see the use of vibrant, contrasting colours, a monochromatic background, big eyes, bold lines, beetles’ wings to depict diamonds in ornaments, a narrow sky, and a red border.
This collection of paintings is referred to as the Kangra style because Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra’s portraits is the only other painter who painted in a similar manner to them. The Nainsukh family is primarily credited with creating paintings in the Kangra style.
Beginning in the early 19th century, some Pahari painters received patronage from Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Sikh nobility in Punjab, where they painted portraits and other miniatures in a modified Kangra style that persisted through the middle of the century.
Salient features of this school of art:
- This school of art is distinguished by its delicate drawing and naturalistic quality.
- The Kangra style, which is distinguished by serene beauty and delicate execution, is unquestionably the most poetic of all Indian styles.
- The most distinguishing aspect of this style is the way in which the female face is defined, with a straight nose that is parallel to the forehead, a trend that began in the 1790s.
- The most popular themes that were painted were the Bhagvata Purana, Gita Govinda, Nala Damayanti, Bihari Satsai, Ragamala and Baramasa
The Deccan painting was created in the Muslim capitals of the Deccan sultanates that emerged from the dissolution of the Bahmani Sultanate by 1520 in the Deccan region of Central India. Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar, and Berar were among them. The main period was from the late sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century, with a revival of sorts in the middle of the eighteenth century, which by that time was centred on Hyderabad.
The Deccan painting outperforms the early Mughal art that was developing concurrently with the north in “the brilliance of their colour, the sophistication and artistry of their composition, and a general air of decadent luxury.” Other differences include painting “tall women with small heads” wearing saris and “poorly modelled” faces in three-quarter view rather than mostly in profile in the Mughal style. Although there are many royal portraits, they do not accurately depict their Mughal counterparts. The representation of buildings is as “totally flat screen-like panels.”
Sub-schools in the Deccani school of painting:
- A collection of poems written in honour of Hussain Nizam Shah I of Ahmednagar (1553–1565) and his queen contains the earliest examples of the Ahmednagar painting.
- This manuscript, titled “Tarif-in-Hussain Shahi,” dates from the years 1565 to 1569 and is kept at the Bharat ltihas Samshodaka Mandala in Poona.
- The “Hindola Raga” from around 1590 AD and portraits of Burhan Nizam Shah II of Ahmednagar (1591–96 AD) and Malik Amber from around 1605 AD, both found in the National Museum in New Delhi and other museums, are some additional fine examples of the Ahmednagar painting.
- Persian influence – high horizon, gold sky, and landscape.
- Ali Adil Shah, I, and his successor Ibrahim II in Bijapur were patrons of the painting.
- The Najum-al-ulum (Stars of Sciences), an encyclopedia that is now housed in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, was illustrated in 1570 AD during the reign of Ali Adil Shah I. an 876 miniatures in this manuscript
- The women depicted in the illustrations are tall and slim and are dressed in South Indian attire.
- The Deccani tradition is represented by the vibrant colour scheme, the palm trees, the animals, and both men and women. The Persian tradition is reflected in the lavish use of the colour gold, some flowering plants, and the arabesques on top of the throne.
- Some exhibit the Lepakshi temple murals’ influence, especially in how women are portrayed.
- The earliest paintings recognized as being by Golconda are a collection of five charming works from around 1590 A.D. that are housed in the British Museum in London and were created during the time of Muhammad Quli Quta Shah (1580-1611) Golconda.
- They show dancing girls entertaining the company.
- The Golconda painting “Lady with the Myna bird,” which was created around 1605 A.D., is yet another outstanding example.
- Both the southern tradition of the Vijayanagar murals, as seen in the treatment of female types and costumes, and the northern tradition of pre-Mughal painting, which was thriving in Malwa, were influenced by this school of painting. The treatment of the horizon gold sky and landscape also shows the Persian painting’s influence. In contrast to the northern painting, these colours are vibrant and rich.
- The establishment of the Asafjhi dynasty by Mir Qamruddin Khan marked the beginning of painting in Hyderabad.
- The style of the painting is decorative.
- The miniature exhibits typical Deccani facial types and attire, as well as rich colours, which are hallmarks of Hyderabadi paintings. It was created during the third decade of the 18th century.
- In South India during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a painting style characterized by bold drawing, shading strategies, and the use of pure and brilliant colours flourished at Tanjore.
- Indian Thanjavur paintings stand out from other types of paintings due to their dense composition, rich surface, and vibrant colours.
- Then, to further enhance their appeal, they are embellished with pearls, glass, and semi-precious stone accents. They appear to be three-dimensional due to the relief work. India’s Tanjore Painting originated back in the sixteenth century.
- From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Maratha princes, Nayakas, Rajus communities of Tanjore and Trichi, and Naidus of Madurai were also patrons of Indian Thanjavur Paintings.
- The majority of these paintings are based on saints and Hindu gods and goddesses.
- The central figure of the painting is always the main subject. Tanjore paintings are known as “Palagai Padam” in the area because they are typically created on solid wood planks (palagai meaning wooden plank and Padam meaning picture).
The subjects of folk paintings, which are the visual expressions of local painters, are typically taken from epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana, as well as from everyday village life, birds and animals, and natural objects like the sun, moon, plants, and trees.
Madhubani Paintings or Mithila paintings
- It derives its name from Mithila, the ancient Videha and birthplace of Sita
- For ceremonial occasions, particularly weddings, it is believed that women in this region have painted figures and patterns on the walls of their mud homes for centuries.
- People of this area see the origin of this art form at the time Princess Sita gets married to Lord Rama.
- These paintings, which stand out for their vivid colours, are primarily found in three areas of the house: the central or outer courtyards, the eastern wing, which serves as Kuladevi’s, usually Kali’s, residence, and a room in the southern wing, which contains the most important artwork.
- The exterior central courtyard is vividly decorated with images of many armed gods and animals as well as women carrying water pots or winnowing grain, among other tasks.
- Griha devatas and kula devatas are painted on the inner verandah, which is where the family shrine—devasthana or gosain ghar—is situated.
- In the recent past, numerous paintings have been produced for sale on fabric, paper, pots, etc.
- The most extraordinary and vibrant paintings, however, are found in the area of the house known as the kohbar ghar, or an inner room. There, on the freshly plastered walls of the space, are magnificent depictions of kohbar, a lotus with a stalk in full bloom that has tantric and metaphorical meanings.
- Artists in Mithila dislike voids. They decorate the entire area with natural objects from the world around them, such as birds, flowers, animals, fish, snakes, the sun, and the moon. These objects frequently have symbolic meanings, such as those for love, passion, fertility, eternity, well-being, and prosperity.
Women use bamboo twigs to paint that have been attached to cotton swabs, rice straws, or fibre. In the past, they produced colours using natural materials like phalsa and Kusum flowers, bilwa leaves, kajal, turmeric, etc.
The state of Odisha is famous for this form of folk painting. Some of the features of this form of painting are:
- Pattachitra is a picture painted on a piece of cloth.
- The Puri temple customs and the Shri Jagannath cult are both closely related to this style of art.
- It is believed to have originated as early as the 12th century
- Thia Badhia, which depicts the Jagannath temple, Krishna Lila, which shows Jagannath as Lord Krishna demonstrating his powers as a child, Dasabatara Patti, which shows the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, and Panchamukhi, which shows Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity are some of the popular themes represented through this art form. The themes, which conceptualize the significance of the paintings, are more important than anything else in the essence of the art form.
- Most of the materials used in this painting are natural substances
- It is a structured art form with a number of guidelines. This must have a floral border around them, and the colours used must be natural.
- Paintings are executed primarily in profile with elongated eyes, as well.
- The paintings end up depicting stark emotional expressions with great detail because of the use of such prominent solid shades.
The art form has changed and evolved over time in observable ways. The Chitrakars have painted on Tussar silk and palm leaves in addition to producing showpieces and wall hangings.
- It originated in the 19th century in West Bengal, India, in the vicinity of Kalighat Kali Temple, Kalighat, Calcutta
- The Kalighat paintings evolved from the representation of Hindu gods, god, and other mythological figures to reflect a variety of subjects, including numerous depictions of daily life.
- Paintings of the life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are also quite common in this form of painting
- Contemporary events like crime were also the subject of many paintings.
- Additionally, the artists decided to depict secular themes and figures, contributing to the Independence movement in the process. Historical figures like Rani Lakshmibai and Duldul, the well-known horse of Imam Hussain of Karbala, were painted.
- This school of painting is characterized by the use of watercolours on mill paper with brushes made of calf and squirrel hair.
These simple paintings and drawings, which could easily be reproduced by lithography influenced even modern artists like the late Jamini Roy.
- A type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile known as kalamkari is made in the Iranian city of Isfahan and the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
- Only natural dyes are used in Kalamkari, which involves twenty-three steps
- Artists use a bamboo or date palm stick that is pointed at one end and has a bundle of fine hair attached to it as a brush or pen to draw design contours.
- There are two distinctive styles of Kalamkari art in India – the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style.
- This artistic movement thrived in temples that focused on forging distinctive religious identities. It can be seen on scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners, and representations of gods and scenes from the Hindu epics (e.g. Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Purana).
- As the first chairperson of the All India Handicrafts Board, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay popularised the art and is credited with giving the style its current status.
- The Warli community inhabits the west coast of Northern Maharashtra around the north Sahyadri range
- Married women play a central role in creating their most important painting called Chowk to mark special occasions.
- Chowk is dominated by the image of a mother goddess, Palghat, who is primarily worshipped as the goddess of fertility and represents the corn goddess, Kansari. She is closely associated with the rituals of marriage, fertility, harvest, and the new season of sowing.
- The cord goddess is enclosed in a tiny square frame that is embellished on the outside with “pointed” chevrons that stand for Hariyali Deva, or the God of Plants.
- Scenes of daily life, including hunting, fishing, farming, dancing, and animal myths are depicted around the central motif of Palaghat.
- These paintings are traditionally painted with rice flour on the earth-coloured walls of their homes.
- These simplistic wall paintings, which are monosyllabic in nature, use a very elementary graphic vocabulary like a circle, a triangle, and a square.
- Their observations of nature led them to create the circle and triangle. The triangle shows mountains and conical trees, while the circle shows the sun and moon.
Modern Indian Paintings
Many people believe that Indian art began to become modern around 1857. The National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi includes pieces from this era in its collection. The Impressionist movement conveniently marks the beginning of the modern era in the west. However, the Bengal School of Painting is usually where we start when discussing modern Indian art.
Modern or contemporary art is characterized by certain freedom from the invention, acceptance of an eclectic approach that places artistic expression in an international context as opposed to a regional one, a positive elevation of technique that has grown to be both widespread and supreme, and the emergence of the artist as a unique individual.
Evolution of modern painting in India
- By the end of the 19th century, Indian painting as an extension of Indian miniature painting was declining. Only a few minor artistic expressions, such as the “Bazar” and “Company” styles of painting, as well as some regional folk arts, persisted during this time.
- Then emerged the recently introduced naturalism in the West, which Raja Ravi Verma was the leading proponent of.
- Abanindranath Tagore made an effort to stop this cultural muddle, and under his inspired leadership, a new school of painting that was initially distinctly nostalgic and romantic came into being. It maintained its position as the Bengal School of Painting, also known as the Renaissance School or the Revivalist School, for more than three decades.
- The end of the Second World War unleashed unprecedented and entirely new political and cultural forces and situations that the artist had to deal with.
- Significantly, the time frame was contiguous with the country’s independence. Freedom brought with it previously unheard-of opportunities. A broad modernization and confrontational course were set for the artist, especially with the West, which had far-reaching repercussions. The artists accepted this change brought about by the circumstances and the desire for modernization (to adopt the ideas such as impressionism, expressionism, or post-expressionism in the realm of arts)
- The fact that the technique and method have taken on new significance is one of the most distinguishing features of contemporary Indian painting. The content of a work of art became secondary to the form, which was increasingly valued as a distinct entity.
- The lack of a genuine connection between the artist and the public has become a new issue with the rise of individualism as the dominant artistic ideology.
More on Bengal school of art
The Bengal School of Art commonly referred to as the Bengal School was an art movement and a style of Indian painting that originated in Bengal, and flourished throughout the Indian subcontinent, during the British Raj in the early 20th century.
The emergence of the Bengal school of Art:
- Traditional Indian painting techniques had lost favour during the British Raj, when the British crown ruled the Indian subcontinent, largely because they did not suit the tastes of British collectors.
- Company Paintings, which catered to British sensibilities, were widely promoted in addition to the European painting techniques and subjects that were taught in art academies.
- Company Paintings depicted Indian subjects such as native plant life or customary dress and rituals using both the European aesthetic and painting conventions.
- Rather than celebrating Indian cultural traditions, it simplified them into exotica.
- By drawing on Mughal influences, Rajasthani, and Pahari styles to present elegant scenes of uniquely Indian customs and daily life, the Bengal School emerged to combat such imagery.
The Main features of the Bengal School of Painting:
- Based on Indian Traditions: The Bengal School is entirely based on the Indian traditional style because it teaches subjects related to Indian culture.
- The paintings based on Indian themes like ‘Mahakali, ‘Shiva Parwati’Krishna and Gopis, etc. prove the Bengal School’s Indian mentality.
- Influence of Ajanta Paintings: Ajanta Art has an influence on Bengal Schools. Bengal School exhibits Ajanta Art characteristics like rhythm, grace, harmony, etc.
- Linear Delicacy: The lines of Bengal School resemble the Ajanta Paintings. Lines are delicate and rhythmic.
- Softness and Rhythm in Figures: Bengal School’s figures have a soft appearance; they lack hardness. They are delicate and graceful. These are rhythmic and give the eyes a pleasurable experience.
- Beautiful Colour Scheme: Bengal School’s colours are very appealing. The Wash technique is employed, and the colours aren’t at all garish or bright.
- Influence of Mughal and Rajasthani Schools: Mughal and Rajasthani Schools’ influence can also be seen in some places.
- Light and Shade: The softness in the paintings of Bengal School is due to its quality of brilliant light and shade.
Impressive and Indian Subject Matter: Bengal School is both Indian and very impressive. Themes from literature, religion, and history are all used.
Previous Year Questions UPSC Prelims
1. The painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani is one of the most famous and oft-illustrated paintings at
Ans: (a) Ajanta
2. Kalamkari painting refers to
(a) a hand-painted cotton textile in South India
(b) a handmade drawing on bamboo handicrafts in North East India.
(c) a block-painted woollen cloth in the Western Himalayan region of India
(d) a hand-painted decorative silk cloth in North-Western India
Ans: (a) a hand-painted cotton textile in South India
3. Consider the following historical places:
- Ajanta Caves
- Lepakshi Temple
- Sanchi Stupa
Which of the above places is/are known for mural paintings?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3
Ans: (b) 1 and 2 only
Also read: Modern Indian Sculpture
Article Written by: Remya