INDIAN PAINTINGS: Tanjore Paintings, Kalighat Painting, Hindu Mythological Depiction

          Rama and Hanuman fighting Ravana, Ramayana  
           Painting on Paper British Museum, London

Tanjore of Thanjavur painting is the ancient art of Tamilnadu region of South India. 

Tanjore painting or Thanjavur painting is the art that is as old as the fifteenth and seventeenth century. It was the art of the people of south India living around the City of Thanjavur in the Southern part of India. The language Tamil, spoken mainly in the present-day Tamilnadu state of India and the art of Tamil culture occupy a major chunk of detail in the history of the civilization of India.

The ART: The Tanjore paintings are composed of compactly and coloured vividly. Moreover, they tend to be rich on the surface. The artists of this style of painting demand skill from the artists. 

The paintings are done in stages. The base of the paintings is made of local cotton and the cloth is then pasted on a wooden panel. In the final stages, the artist often uses silver and gold, too, as the material to decorate the painting. The materials used are glittering gold foils. These foils are overlaid on the gesso work extensively done. Thus the final painting looks much shining and decorative. From the local markets, one can purchase copies of these paintings done by the local artists. The prices of these paintings start from $200. If the painting is big and much labour is invested, it may cost higher. But it would be a matter of happiness to have Tanjore painting on the walls of our house.

Goddess Durga Killing Mahisasur
WillCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kalighat Paintings: Theme: Indian Schools of Paintings. The Kalighat Paintings from Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The artwork of the artists who had resided around the area known a Kalighat in present-day Kolkata (Calcutta) is known as ‘Kalighat paintings. 

These artists, due to historic reasons of the British people taking over the rule of this region, have migrated to this place. Thus the roots of these paintings are in the Bengal of the nineteenth century. 

These Kalighat Painters took the subjects of Gods and Goddess. Here the Goddess Durga, which is worshipped most all over India, especially in Bengal during Durga Puja, is shown as killing the demon Mahisasur.

Subjects depicted and materials used in Kalighat Paintings: Mythological stories are the main source from which these artists of Tanjore painting draw their subjects. The incidences narrated in the epics of Hindu religion, religious books like Mahabharat and Ramayan, are depicted mainly in Thanjavur paintings. The icon of religion, the gods and Goddesses or religious persons occupy the central part of the paintings. In the above paintings, Lord Rama believed as the Incarnation of Lord Vishnu is painted as fighting with the King of Lanka. The incidence is taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

The Kalighat painters took their subjects from the religion and mythology, but they were perhaps the first lot of Indian artists who had started painting for their customers in all the strata of life, including common men. In addition to the religious subjects, they have honoured the various subjects taken from the social surrounding, too. They have tried to infuse the strong social themes and the social consciousness of the time in their paintings.

Though started in the nineteenth century, the Kalighat painting has reached recognition during the turn of the century. From the early years of the twentieth century, this art of painting is regarded as an inventive aesthetic movement in the Bengal region of India receiving more and more international attention.

The materials they used for accomplishing their art were very simple and easily available from the local area. They used simple paper and watercolours to paint. Their paint brushes were made from the hair of squirrel and calf. The Kalighat style of paintings has four main characteristics: speaking and meaningful gestures of the figure painted, perfect and brush strokes carrying quality and the linear economy.

These painters have taken social aspects like the changed lifestyle of the urban class of the people and the native villagers. In their paintings, these artists tried sending messages to the mass of people to remain away from certain social evils like drinking and the company of unchaste women. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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