Indian Painting – Influence of Customs and Traditions


What is Indian Painting?

The tradition of Indian painting has developed on the Indian subcontinent since ancient times. A testimony to this fact are the very elaborate murals of Ajanta and Ellora, Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts, as well as the Mughal and Kangra schools of Indian miniature paintings. Of these, records have been found that indicate the use of paintings to decorate doors, rooms, among others. Some traditional Indian paintings, such as those of Ajanta, Bagh and Sittanvasal, depict love for nature and its forces.

Over time, classical Indian paintings evolved to become a kind of mixture of different traditions and influences. Even Indian folk painting has become highly sought after among art lovers, both nationally and internationally. Most folk paintings reflect a strong influence of customs and traditions.

What is Indian Painting

Definition of Indian Painting

Painting as an art form has flourished in India from very early times as is evident from the remains that have been discovered in caves and literary sources. The history of art and painting in India begins with prehistoric rock painting in Bhimbetka (M.P.) caves where drawings and paintings of animals are counted. The rock paintings of Narsinghgarh (Maharashtra) show spotted deer skins. Thousands of years ago, paintings and drawings had already appeared on the seals of the Harappan civilization. Thus, Hindu and Buddhist literature refer to paintings of various types and techniques. For example, Lepyacitras, lekhacitras and Dhulitcitras paintings. The first was the depiction of folklore, the second was line drawing and painting on textile, while the third refers to painting on the floor.

How did Indian painting develop?

In Indian painting there are various genres of painting as well as various techniques and themes. These genres are briefly described below:

Indian Rock Painting

It dates back to prehistoric cave painting. The best examples of these paintings are part of the murals of Ajanta, Ellora, Bagh, Sittanvasal, among others that reflect an emphasis on naturalism. Ancient cave paintings of India serve as a window to the knowledge of the ancestors, who inhabited these caves.

Madhubani Painting

Madhubani painting that originated in a small village, known as Maithili, of the Bihar state of India. Initially, the women of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their house, as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes and dreams. Over time, painting began to become a part of festivities and special events, such as marriage.

Painting miniatures

These paintings are characterized by their beauty, they were handmade paintings, which were very colorful but small in size. They feature intricate and delicate brushwork, which gives them a unique identity.

Mughal Painting

Reflects a unique combination of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles. As the name suggests, these paintings evolved and developed during the Mughal emperors in India, between the 16th and 19th centuries.

Mysore painting

It is the form of classical South Indian painting, which developed in the city of Mysore of Karnataka. During that time, Mysore was under the reign of the Wodeyars and it is under their patronage that this school of painting reached its exponential peak.

Pahari Painting

It is the name given to the Rajput paintings of the Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir states of India. This painting was developed during the period from the 17th to the 19th century, hence, the paintings were mostly done in miniature form.

Rajput Painting  

It originated in the royal State of Rajasthan, in the 16th and early 17th century. The Mughals ruled almost all the princely states of Rajasthan at that time and because of this; most of the Rajput schools of painting in India reflect the strong Mughal influence.

Tanjore Painting

It is one of the most popular forms of classical South Indian painting. It is the native art form of Thanjavur (also known as Tanjore) city of Tamil Nadu. The composition is dense, surface richness and vibrant colors in Thanjavur paintings, other types of paintings are also distinguished.

What is the importance of Indian Painting

What is the importance of Indian Painting?

By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, paintings were already composed in semi-westernized local styles influenced by the frequent visits and residence of the British. Therefore, the subjects were generally drawn from Indian social life, popular festivals and Mughal monuments. These reflect improvised Mughal traditions. The bird paintings of Shaikh Zia-ud-Din Lady Impey and the portrait paintings of Ghulam Ali Khan William Fraser and Colonel Skinner are the examples of some excellent paintings of this period. Similarly, in the late 19th century art schools on the European model were established in major Indian cities like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Likewise, the oil paintings of Raja Ravi Varma of Travancore depict mythological and social themes that became very popular at this time.

What is the legacy of Indian Painting?

A significant development in Indian painting was the formation of the group of progressive artists in Bombay in 1948, under the guidance of Francis Newton Souza. This group also included S. Raza de H., M.F. Hussain, K.M. Ara, S.K. Bakre and H.A. Gode. This group broke away from the Bengal school of art and formed the forceful modern art of independent India. In the 1970s these artists began to critically examine their environment. Every day they encountered poverty, corruption, and the political quagmire of the country, explosive communal tension and other urban issues became the subjects of their works. Madras art school Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury and K.C.S Paniker emerged as an important art center of the post independence period and has influenced a new generation of modern artists.

Main representatives of Indian Painting

Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, E.B. Havell and Ananda Kehtish Coomaraswamy played an important role in the emergence of the Bengal school of art. The Bengal school flourished in Shantiniketan where Rabindranath Tagore reportedly created the Kala Bhavan. Talented artists like Nandalal Bose, Binod Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij provided training to aspiring artists. Nandalal often derived inspiration from Indian folk art and also from Japanese painting while coming in contact with Behari Mukerjee because he was deeply interested in oriental traditions. Jamini Roy, another great painter of this period, derived inspiration from Pata de Qrissa painting and Kalighat painting of Bengal. Amrita Shergil, was a great painter who was educated in Paris and Budapest. Considered a prodigy of Sikh father and Hungarian mother, he painted Indian subjects in brilliant colors, especially Indian women and peasants. Although he died very young, he left a rich legacy of Indian paintings.