Mangala Arts

What is the history and origin of Indian art forms? Discuss about the famous Indian paintings (Tanjore Paintings)

  Famous Indian Paintings

A section of Indian paintings are beautiful and famous, such that they are a feast for the eyes. Before we look at the famous Indian paintings, let us understand the history of Indian art with a special focus on Indian paintings.

History of Indian art

Indian art dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. According to history records, the origin of Indian art can be traced to prehistoric settlements. Historians and those who study art will agree that Indian art forms and the Indian traditional artwork have borrowed influences from multiple sources. Taking a trip down memory lane, it is good to note that dynasties from various religions ruled India. Additionally, India is a land of diversity. Thus, the various Indian art forms have religious influences in their artwork. It is no surprise that the various famous Indian paintings have either a mild or heavy religious influence. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Islam have influenced artwork labelled famous Indian paintings.

Indian art forms

A variety of art forms, including painting, sculpture, pottery, and textile arts such as woven silk, are Indian art forms. In the 3rd millennium BC, the entire Indian subcontinent included the present-day countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and a section of eastern Afghanistan. The various Indian traditional artwork has a strong sense of design, which is appreciated even in the modern era. Several famous Indian paintings and many Indian art forms have stood the test of time. 

Take, for example, the sculpture works. Sculpture work was primarily done on metals and stone. Several sculpture pieces that reflect Indian traditional artwork have stood the test of time, despite being exposed to a range of climatic conditions, which are still famous today. Also equally famous and talked about are the famous Indian paintings. Tanjore art, a part of the south Indian traditional paintings, is globally famous.

Indian art forms

Superior painting tools and techniques were developed and used by Indus Valley civilization artists 

It is interesting to note that the ancient paintings' subject and theme were very minimal and basic. The ancient rock paintings and the murals are proof of this. However, during the Indus valley civilization, when the natives of the land were believed to have progressed leaps and bounds, Indian art forms and traditional Indian artwork also developed. Superior painting tools and techniques were developed and used. According to history records, the artists of the Indus valley civilization would paint what they saw. From landscapes to hunting parties to people dancing, sunrise and sunset, the artisans of the Indus valley civilization painted them all. It is believed that artists began painting and sculpting their deities during this time. Some of the famous Indian paintings date back to this bygone era.

Indian traditional artwork began to draw influence from religion and region

 In the eras that followed and in the contemporary era, Indian traditional artwork and the various Indian art forms drew influences from their region of origin and religion. This is precisely why famous Indian paintings can be classified based on the region from where they originated. Few of the famous Indian paintings do have religious influence.

Indian traditional artwork

Paintings hold a special place in the history of Indian traditional artwork 

Paintings hold a special place in Indian traditional artwork. The history of the different paintings is educational, and it makes an interesting read. Initially, the artists of the prehistoric era used tools that were available to them back then. Artists used tools like wooden sticks made of raw materials like tree branches. Additionally, bones and animal hair were also used to make paintbrushes. Paintings were done in caves then. Blood, charcoal mixed with oil, extracted from roots and leaves doubled up as paint.

As time progressed, so did the painting techniques and styles

 As time progressed, so did the Indian traditional artwork, especially the traditional paintings of India. The paintings of the Mughal era were done on paper. Artists used fine paint brushes and pens. Pattachitra is a famous cloth-based scroll form of painting. Palm leaves were also used to paint. Images of gods and goddesses were painted on palm leaves. It required skilled hands to do so. Very fine paintbrushes and permanent colors were used. 

Tanjore art and Tanjore paintings are famous globally

Tanjore art, a part of south Indian traditional paintings, is popular worldwide. Tanjore paintings are famous Indian paintings that use a foil made of gold, precious and semi-precious stones. Tanjore art is done on media like walls, wooden panels, glass and paper. Tanjore paintings are usually done on a canvas mounted on a wooden plank. Some Tanjore artwork also could be made of mica and ivory.

Classifying famous Indian paintings based on theme and techniques

By classifying the Indian paintings based on themes and techniques, we understand famous Indian paintings. Here's looking at a famous Indian traditional artwork from the south and one from north India.

Classifying famous

Madhubani paintings

 Of all the traditional paintings of India, the Madhubani paintings hold a special place, so much so that several Madhubani paintings are regarded as famous Indian paintings. The Madhubani traditional paintings of India originated from the Mithila region in Bihar, so the famous Indian paintings of this form are also known as Mithila paintings. The form of painting is still practiced in the pockets of Bihar.

Interesting facts about Mithila paintings or the Madhubani paintings

  • If observations made by historians are to be believed, Madhubani paintings came into being when Lord Rama and Sita tied a nuptial knot.
  • In a bid to prevent trees from being felled, artists in the Madhubani painting style painted images of gods and goddesses on trees. In 2012 the BBC newspaper published a story on the initiative. 
  • Initially, Madhubani paintings were done on mud walls of homes. They are created on canvases, cushions, paper, or even clothes in the modern-day. Madhubani artwork has made it to utensils and even bangles.
  • Divinities were, are and will continue to be the theme of this Indian traditional artwork.

Tanjore paintings

Tanjore paintings

 A mention of south Indian traditional paintings is incomplete without describing the Tanjore paintings from the Tanjore art. Tanjore paintings have made it to the list of famous Indian paintings. These south Indian traditional paintings and the form of classical south Indian painting style are believed to have been inaugurated from the town of Thanjavur, which is known as Tanjore. The Indian traditional artwork thrived in 1600 AD when the Nayakas of Thanjavur were ruled by the Vijayanagara Rayas, who encouraged art, primarily classical dance and music, besides encouraging vernacular literature and paintings.

Why have Tanjore paintings made it to the list of famous Indian paintings?

Bright, rich, vivid colors, simple iconic composition, glittering gold foils that are neatly placed on delicate but extensive gesso work and usage of glass beads and pieces or very rarely precious and semi-precious gems, a Tanjore painting has it all. In the ancient days, Tanjore art decorated the palaces of the kings, and in the modern-day, Tanjore south Indian traditional paintings can be found in the homes and offices of people.

How are Tanjore paintings made?

In the past and even today, a Tanjore painting can be made in almost any size, depending on the choice of subject and patron.

Tanjore painting, a form of Tanjore art, is made on a canvas mounted on wood. The canvas is a cloth neatly mounted on a plank of wood. Special glue is used to keep together the wood and canvas.

 Once the glue is dried, the painting is ready to be created. Next, the artist begins to trace the image on the canvas. A stencil is used for the process. A unique binding medium creates the gesso work after the subject(s) are drawn on the canvas. Selected areas are highlighted using 22-carat gold foil. Precious and semi-precious stones are also used. Tanjore paintings always use bright hues.

Quick facts about Tanjore art and Tanjore paintings

  • Tanjore painting is the only form of painting that uses gesso. A section of the portion of the subjects in the painting is elevated. 
  • The Government Museum, Chennai and the Thanjavur Art Gallery, Thanjavur, are home to one of the finest collections of Thanjavur paintings. The paintings depict the Maratha kings of Thanjavur and the like.
  • In the past, artists' used natural elements to add color to the Tanjore paintings. However, in the modern day, artists use paints laced with chemicals as this doubles up as a cost-effective solution.
  • Tanjore paintings are known to portray subjects in a typical composition. The figures are primarily round-shaped, and the eyes are almond-shaped. The primary subject occupies a significant portion of the painting. 
  • A few museums in England have an extensive collection of Thanjavur paintings on display. 17th century Thanjavur paintings can be found at the National Museum of Copenhagen.
  • Tanjore art, one of the most famous Indian art forms, has stood the test of time.

Where to purchase a Tanjore painting?

If you wish to purchase and own one of the famous Indian paintings, you can purchase a Tanjore painting. There are many places where you can purchase one. We recommend purchasing your most cherished Tanjore painting from Mangala Tanjore Paintings. The art gallery located in Coimbatore has a range of Tanjore paintings, and at the art gallery, there is one for everyone. If you wish to gift a Tanjore artwork to your family or friend, you can have it delivered to their doorstep. If you cannot visit the art gallery in person, you can visit their website to purchase. 

Mangala Tanjore Paintings was founded by and owned by an art connoisseur. Tanjore Paintings sold at the art gallery use 22-carat original gold foil. They are available in 2D and 3D embossing and use semi-precious stones. Tanjore paintings courtesy of Mangala Tanjore paintings have an antique finish and wood frame that render a classic look.

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