Indian painting

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Indian painting has a very long tradition and history in Indian art. The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of pre-historic times, the petroglyphs as found in places like Bhimbetka rock shelters, some of the Stone Age rock paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 30,000 years old.[1] The painting history can be broadly categorized into three categories: mural painting, miniature painting and painting on other removable media (fabrics, papers, wood, scrolls, etc.)

Bengal and Calcutta had a major role in the development of modern and contemporary art in India, with schools and movements such as Kalighat, School of Bengal, Santiniketan, Calcutta Group, Society of Contemporary Artists and Calcutta Painters' Group.

In the 20th century the modern painting is opposed to colonial painting and today contemporary metropolitan painting continues to develop its own style.

Chapter 10 is dedicated to the contemporary vernacular painting: contemporary tribal painting and rural contemporary (non-tribal) painting .[2]

India Administrative divisions FR.svg



  • The mural painting exists under the Hindi name Bhitti Chitra (Bhitti = wall, Chitra = painting).[3]
  • The painting on the floor is called Bhumi Chitra or Rangoli
  • The painting on fabrics is called Patta Chitra or Potchitro (Pot = roll)
  • The painting on the bodies is called Deh Chitra or Gudna
  • The manuscript painting (miniature) is called Chitra Bhagwat or illumination
  • "Kalam" means pen, brush or "school of ..."

Shadanga – the six principles of painting[edit]

In the 1st century BC, Indian art was introduced to the six prime principles of the art, known as 'Shadanga' or the 'Six Limbs' of painting. These limbs were actually six different points which emphasized what all artists needed to infuse in their artworks to achieve greater effect and appeal.[4]

These 'Six Limbs' have been translated as follows:[4]

  1. Rupabheda The knowledge of appearances.
  2. Pramanam Correct perception, measure and structure.
  3. Bhava Action of feelings on forms.
  4. Lavanya Yojanam Infusion of grace, artistic representation.
  5. Sadrisyam Similitude.
  6. Varnikabhanga Artistic manner of using the brush and colours (Tagore).

The subsequent development of painting by the Buddhists indicates that these ' Six Limbs ' were put into practice by Indian artists, and are the basic principles on which their art was founded.

Prehistoric painting , from 26,000 years BC[edit]

Painting of Bhimbetka, shelter 8

Since ancient times men have drawn in rock shelters,[5][6][7][8] on the walls and floors, to talk about their life and leave their mark, but without religious significance. The Indian sub-continent has the third largest number of rock art after Australia and Africa, with more than 150 sites throughout India, but mostly located in central India (Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh). The antiquity of this art and the phases of its evolution are not datable with precision. In fact, it essentially comprises images painted in red with iron oxides (hematite), for which it is not possible to use analyzes by the radiocarbon method, since this can only be applied to pigments of organic origin (coals for example). If some of these pigments have been used, they have not been preserved, because it is an outdoor art, exposed to light and elements, unlike the art of European caves. The oldest Indian paintings are petroglyphs aged between 10,000 years and 28,000 years according to sources, such as those found in Bhimbetka in the Vindhya mountains north of the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh and in Jogimara (Sarguja) near Narmada in the state of Chhattisgarh. The rock painting lasted until the 3rd millennium BC (Pachmarhi (Vindhya Mountains), Madhya Pradesh).

The first worldwide discoveries of rock art was in India in 1867, by the archaeologist A.C.L. Carlleyle.

Rock art in India includes an overwhelming majority of human figures, a great diversity of animals and some geometric signs, symbols often impossible to interpret when the millennial traditions are extinct.

Two activities are represented in all periods: hunting and dancing. The men hunt with the bow or sometimes armed with an ax, for example to face a tiger. Their prey is mostly deer, but also bison, tigers, monkeys or birds. Dance plays an important figurative role in rock art, and this activity remains present in the tribes today. Sometimes an isolated dancer waves his arms and body. Elsewhere, it will be a couple. Most often, the dancers are in groups, up to fifteen people, in a long line or in a circle, the bodies following the rhythm, the arms joined or lifted, without it being possible to generally identify their sex. Musical instruments include drums, flutes, harps and cymbals.

Animal drawings show a surprising variety. To make a single comparison: on about a thousand animal representations in Pachmarhi, we identify 26 different species, while in Lascaux France, on an equivalent number, we only recognize 9.[9]

Enigmatic are some sub-rock paintings in Chhattisgarh aged 10.000 years old. In Singhanpur near Raigarh there are drawings of giraffes![10]

Most of the rock paintings were executed using red and white pigment, rarely green and yellow, but in Bhimbetka there are 20 different colors. The cave paintings in the Bhimbetka shelters were probably the source of the Warli and Saura tribes.[11]

Buddhist painting, 5th century BC to 12th century[edit]

1st cave Ajanta, late 5th century

Buddhist art is born in the Indian sub-continent, probably during the centuries following the death of Historical Buddha or Gautama Buddha VIth century BC and Vth century BC, although its first manifestations are attested by archaeological discoveries after reign of Ashoka (304-232 BC). A first phase, an Indian ally, an "aniconic phase", during which the person of the Buddha is represented by symbols, is directed towards the first century of an "iconic phase" during which anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha.

In India, the Buddhist art knows a great development and leaves its mark on the whole of the Hindu art until the quasi-disappearance of the Buddhism in 10th century before the expansion of the Hinduism and Islam, but there are Buddhist illuminations on palm leaves made at XIth century and XIIth century in Bihar and Bengal.

There are examples of Buddhist frescoes in the 30 Buddhist Artificial Caves of Ajanta, painted from 2nd century Before J.-C.[12]

The paintings Thangka, found in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, usually symbolic mystical diagrams (Mandala), deities of Tibetan Buddhism or the Bon religion, or portraits of the Dalai – Lama. They most often went to serve as a medium for meditation. The diagram is in all cases filled with symbols; he can be associated with a deity. Some mandalas, very elaborate and codified, in semi-figurative, semi-abstract.

Painting on scrolls, from the 5th century BC[edit]

The scrolls are in the form of sheets of paper sewn together and sometimes stuck on canvas. Their width ranges from 10 to 35 cm and their length, rarely below 1 m, can exceed 5 m (the Thangas can reach several tens of meters). At each end of these rolls, a bamboo (sometimes decorated with engraved patterns) is used to wind and unroll the paint. This one is realized, by one or more painters, using vegetable colors. Black is thus obtained with charcoal or burnt rice, red with betel, blue with the fruit of a tree called nilmoni, etc. In order to fix these colors, we add a tree resin that has been melted beforehand.

The school of Patta Chitra is 'known school' for its scroll paintings. But several other schools followed, even a school like "Company Paintings", which is rather known for its miniatures.

Patta Chitra from Orissa and West Bengal, from 5th century BC[edit]

Bangali Patua in International Kolkata Book Fair 2013
Gita Govinda depicted in Pattachitra

Pattachitra refers to the Classical painting of Odisha and West Bengal, the eastern region of India.'Patta' in Sanskrit means 'Bastra' or 'clothings' and 'Chitra' means 'paintings'. The Bengal Patachitra is devided into some different aspects like Durga Pat, Chalchitra, Tribal Patachitra, Medinipur Patachitra, Kalighat Patachitra and etc.[13] The subject matter of Bengal Patachitra is mostly mythological, religious stories, folk lore and social. The Kalighat Patachitra, the last tradition of Bengal Patachitra is developed by Jamini Roy. The artist of the Bengal Patachitra is called Patua.[14]

The tradition of Orissa Pattachitra is closely linked with the worship of Lord Jagannath. Apart from the fragmentary evidence of paintings on the caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri and Sitabhinji murals of the Sixth century A.D., the earliest indigenous paintings from Odisha are the Pattachitra done by the Chitrakars (the painters are called Chitrakars).[15] The theme of Oriya painting centres round the Vaishnava sect. Since beginning of Pattachitra culture Lord Jagannath who was an incarnation of Lord Krishna was the major source of inspiration. The subject matter of Patta Chitra is mostly mythological, religious stories and folk lore. Themes are chiefly on Lord Jagannath and Radha-Krishna, different "Vesas" of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, temple activities, the ten incarnations of Vishnu basing on the 'Gita Govinda' of Jayadev, Kama Kujara Naba Gunjara, Ramayana, Mahabharata. The individual paintings of gods and goddesses are also being painted.The painters use vegetable and mineral colours without going for factory made poster colours. They prepare their own colours. White colour is made from the conch-shells by powdering, boiling and filtering in a very hazardous process. It requires a lot of patience. But this process gives brilliance and premanence to the hue. 'Hingula', a mineral colour, is used for red. 'Haritala', king of stone ingredients for yellow, 'Ramaraja' a sort of indigo for blue are being used. Pure lamp-black or black prepared from the burning of cocoanut shells are used.The brushes that are used by these 'Chitrakaras' are also indigenous and are made of hair of domestic animals. A bunch of hair tied to the end of a bamboo stick make the brush. It is really a matter of wonder as to how these painters bring out lines of such precision and finish with the help of these crude brushes. That old tradition of Oriya painting still survives to-day in the skilled hands of Chitrakaras (traditional painters) in Puri, Raghurajpur, Paralakhemundi, Chikiti and Sonepur.

Nakashi (Cheriyal) Patta Chitra from Telangana, from the second century BC[edit]

Cheriyal Roll

To Cheriyal[16] are the historical (cotton) scrolls that storytellers were taking on their tours to tell villagers the epics. It is a stylized painting of Nakashi art, rich in patterns that is characteristic for the Telangana state.

Only a few families still practice this tradition. The themes are very village-like (scenes of wedding dances, shepherds leading their flocks, women in their daily activities). The colors are mostly red and blue.

Buddhist Thangka from Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, from 8th century[edit]

Bodhisattva Vajrapani, one of the oldest Tibetan thangkas, dating from the 9th century

A Thangka, literally "thing that we roll out", "scroll", is a painting, drawing, or cloth on canvas characteristic of Buddhist culture in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and in Arunachal Pradesh. We can find all sizes, from portable thangkas that can be rolled up and unrolled with two rods in their hems, even monumental thangkas to be rolled along a slope or a wall and which can reach several tens of meters. The oldest known Thangkas come from a few sites in India, including the Ajanta Caves (2nd to 5th century). The oldest Thangkas on fabrics are from the 8th century. The Thangkas generally represent symbolic mystical diagrams (mandala), deities of Tibetan Buddhism or the Bon religion, or portraits of the Dalai Lama. They are most often intended to serve as a medium for meditation.[17]

Phad of Rajasthan, from 14th century[edit]

Folk-deity Pabuji in Pabuji Ki Phad, at Phad painting scroll at National Museum, New Delhi

The Phad painting is exercised in Rajasthan from the 14th century, especially in the Thar desert, Jaisalmer, Bikaner. The Phad paintings[18] are generally in the form of long scrolls, cloth or canvas, predominantly colored yellow, red and green and are carried by the Bhopa, these priests baladins, from the Nayakas tribe, who sings the legend of Pabuji, a hero and local god, revered by the Rabari tribe. The Bhopa also sing the legend of Devnarayan (a warrior who is an incarnation of Vishnu).[19][20] Phad rolls are 5 to 10 m in length. The presentation of each epic lasts all night. The teachers of the Phad school are men from the Joshi families of Bhilwara district who were the only ones to practice this painting until the middle of the twentieth century. In the 1960s Joshiji created a school – Chitrashala Institute – to teach Rajasthani painting and especially Phad painting. There are only 13 artists who practice this art.

Jain Vastrapatas , from 15th century[edit]

Jain-artiste : Jehangir meat ban, 1610

The paintings Jain on paper and fabrics (= vastrapatas), tells the traditions of the Jains. The best known work is a scroll painting (length 210 cm) from 1610 (see photo) or Emperor Jehangir prohibit meat consumption during the Jain festival Paryushan . The scroll is preserved in the museum Lalbhai Dalpatbhai in Ahmedabad.[21][22]

Jadupatua from Bengal and Orissa, from 19th century[edit]

The Santhals are known for their paintings on scrolls: the Jadupatuas', which has the same expression as in the art of Patta Chitra .

See: Santhal Tribe of Bengal and Orissa: Jadupatua painting

Kalighat from Calcutta, the middle of 19th century[edit]

The first Kalighats' in the middle of the 19th century were scroll paintings and the painters were storytellers and singers.

See: #Kalighat from Calcutta, 1850–1940

Miniatures, from 8th century[edit]

Indian miniatures are small format paintings, most often made on paper, sometimes on wood or ivory, developed from Persian miniatures. The oldest miniatures are Buddhist Miniatures made from the 8th century and Jain miniatures from 11th century to 16th century.

Each region has a distinct miniature style. There were the traditions Pahari, Rajasthani, Deccani and the Mughal School. In Rajasthan, the miniatures are largely inspired by their environment: the desert, chivalrous tradition, heroic men and beautiful women, a rich culture and colorful clothing juxtaposed against a sad and desolate background. The Rajputs, noble warriors of Rajasthan founded various kingdoms that competed for supremacy in the arts and this cultural chauvinism engendered a high degree of sophistication. The royal houses sponsored the miniature schools. Every principality and almost every city developed a distinct style.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a large collection of miniature paintings, as well as National Library of France in Paris (2500 images).[23]

Lighting on the techniques of the Indian miniature[edit]

In a painter's studio, several functions can coexist: calligrapher, draftsman, colorist or bookbinder. Before being a painter, the apprentice must first copy the classical models using layers (executed on thin skins of goat or gazelle) or clichés. Models are used until they can be reproduced from memory. On the plain white background, a first sketch in red sets up the main elements, then the colored masses are applied and a darker final outline completes the work. The fine details (features of the faces, jewels) are painted last.

The Indian painter works sitting on the ground, the sheet fixed on a small board; its material consists of an assortment of goat hair or squirrel brushes and seashell valves to hold the colors. A brush with a single hair can be used to trace the imperceptible lines of hair and eyes. The paper, made of vegetable fibers (bamboo, jute, hemp) or rags of cotton, linen, sometimes silk (Deccan), can be tinted with decoctions of saffron, henna or indigo leaves. To make them resistant, the leaves are glued with starch, gum or glucose and, after drying, lustered with a hard stone so that the brush slides easily.

The infinite variety of pigments is of natural origin. Black, for example, is made with carbon (carbon black) or is of metallo-gallic origin (metal salt and tannin). Yellow and orange are obtained from saffron, minium, sulfur or henna bark, but the yellow orpiment, typically Indian, comes from concretion of cow urine fed with mango leaves and is pure in the soil. Pigments of mineral origin are malachite green, rare lapis lazuli blue, or azurite, which is a copper carbonate. The whole range of ochres and browns, from red to brown, comes from the land, while red lacquer is extracted from cochineal. The completed miniature, placed on a marble plate, undergoes a final polishing on the back, which gives its colors this almost enameled glare. The margins (hashiya), constitute a significant element of the Mughal miniatures: nets of color, wash or golden garland border the miniature, then a margin, sandblasted of gold or silver or marbled paper or still decorated with the stencil, frames the painted page.[24]

Buddhist miniatures and the Pala and Sena dynasties, 8th century to 13th century[edit]

Atisha was a Buddhist (Pala) teacher, who helped establish the Sarma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

The story of the miniature begins in eastern India (Bengal and Nepal) in Buddhist monasteries around the 8th century. The iconographic rules were strict and generally illustrated the life of Buddha. Unfortunately, many bookshops in these monasteries were destroyed during the Turkish invasions in 1192, and Buddhist monks and painters were forced to flee to the Himalayan regions and Nepal.

There are Buddhist miniatures on palm leaves made at 11th and 12th century at Bihar and at Bengal.[25]

The dynasties Pala and Sena ruled over BengalBihar from 8th century to 13th century.

The Pala Dynasty are an Indian Buddhist dynasty that reigned from 8th to 11th century. The dynasty was founded around 750 by Go Pala, elected king to put an end to half a century of disorder. After the Muslim invasions led by Muhammad Khilji towards the end of 11th century, the Pala Dynasty disappear and are replaced in the region by their former allies, the Sena.

With the arrival of Sena, Hinduism patronized by the kings rubs Buddhism to merge: Buddha becomes an avatar of Vishnu. The Sena then reigns from 12th to 13th century. Originally from the south of the region, the dynasty was founded in 1070 by Hemanta Sena, originally vassal of the Pala dynasty, which took power and declared independence in 1095. In 1202, the capital Nadiya is evacuated before the arrival of General Bakhtiyar Khalji of the tribe (Persian) Ghuride. The Ghurids seize West Bengal in 1204. Lakshman Sena dies soon after, and his successors reign for some time in the eastern part of Bengal, but political power passes to the Delhi Sultanate with the death of Keshab Sena in 1230.

Pala and Sena schools are known for their miniatures.

Seee also: Buddhist art

Tala Patta Chitra from Orissa, from 8th century[edit]

Tala Patta Chitra representing Krishna and some of his avatars

The Tala Patta Chitra is a miniature style of Orissa, whose first representations date from the 8th century.

The paintings were originally made on dried palm leaves, cut into equally sized rectangles sewn together with black or white thread. The drawings were engraved with a kind of stylet and the engravings obtained filled with ink. Once the lines were defined, vegetable dyes were used to give color to the drawings. However, most of the time these paintings were dichromatic (black and white).

The painting is intimately related to the cult of Jagannatha, the ninth avatar of Krishna, who is particularly venerated at Puri. The works are essentially scenes from Indian mythology and the two great epics of Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata, as well as legends of local folklore.

Jain miniatures, 11th to 16th century[edit]

Jain Miniature

The Jains have, as with architecture and sculpture, contributed to a large extent to the development of pictorial art in India. One can find an innumerable quantity of their works, of extraordinary quality, on wall, on palm leaves, on fabric, on wood and on manuscripts. There are Ellora very rich ceiling paintings in Jain caves.

The Jain miniature is called Gujarat style or more specifically Jain style.

In western India, in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Jain miniature appeared to the 11th century and died with the iconoclasm of Muslims. The scribes copied psalms, legends, fables and biographies in golden ink. The most illustrated text was Kalpasutra. Thumbnails were only present at the introduction and conclusion to preserve the esoteric character of the text. The calligraphy was done in gold or silver ink on vermilion, purple or blue backgrounds.[26]

The scribe was the one who visualized the whole and defined the space reserved for the painter.nThe formats were not very large (due to the shape of the palm leaf) which forced the artist to paint in a narrative way. The characters are very stylized, on a blue or red monochrome background with eyes painted on the outside of a rather austere face. Small in stature, they have very richly ornamented costumes with bright colors and lots of gold.[27]

Deccan Miniatures, 14th to 17th century[edit]

Khusraw Beholding Shirin Bathing India, Deccan, Hyderabad; c. 1720–1740

The Deccan Plateau covers parts of several states in central India, Maharashtra in the north, Chhattisgarh in the northeast, Andhra Pradesh in the east, Karnataka in the west, the most southern stretching into Tamil Nadu. The most important city of the Deccan is Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Other important cities include Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, as well as Nagpur, Pune and Sholapur in Maharashtra. Three large rivers drain the waters of the plateau with their tributaries, the Godavari in the north, the Krishna in the center and the Cauvery in the south.

At 16th century, in the Deccan, Muslim dynasties succeeded the sultanate of the Bahmanides, anterior to the Mughal invasions. These kingdoms of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Golconde and later Hyderabad, which were partly Shiites, while the Mughals were Sunni , possessed their own style (dekkani kalam). Indian input came from the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagara, while foreign contacts came from Africa, Arabia, Persia or Anatolia. The Mughal influence is perceptible in the style typical of these schools of the Deccan, particularly in the art of portraiture, but there is a pronounced taste for luxury, fabrics, gold and decor. The palette of colors is extensive and the compositions, more elaborate, are often punctuated by giant flowers.

The territory of Ahmadnagar was annexed by Akbar, and Bijapur and Golconda were annihilated in 1686 and in 1687 by the armies of Aurangzeb and his sons. It is from this period that date essentially the miniatures from the Deccan. The art of Golconda is best represented. Many series of portraits were realized, representing the sultans of Golconda, their generals and courtiers, but also the kings of Bijapur, the Mughal emperors and their vassals. These effigies were performed by artists who worked in the circle of the Mughal occupier, for example the author of the Manucci album. Later, when the Nizam of Hyderabad succeeded the sultans of Golconda, the Decani painters had little princely orders. They dispersed or adapted to new sponsors. Their style lost its character and the works became stereotyped. Many of these suites connected in album, true historical galleries, were realized for European travelers and it is not rare to find these copies in the West.[28]

Mughal Miniatures, 16th to 19th century[edit]

A 17th-century Mughal painting

Mughal painting is a particular style of Indian painting, generally confined to illustrations on the book and done in miniatures, and which emerged, developed and took shape during the period of the Mughal Empire 16th −19th centuries.

Mughal paintings were a unique blend of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles. Because the Mughal kings wanted visual records of their deeds as hunters and conquerors, their artists accompanied them on military expeditions or missions of state, or recorded their prowess as animal slayers, or depicted them in the great dynastic ceremonies of marriages.

Akbar's reign (1556–1605) ushered a new era in Indian miniature painting. After he had consolidated his political power, he built a new capital at Fatehpur Sikri where he collected artists from India and Persia. He was the first monarch who established in India an atelier under the supervision of two Persian master artists, Mir Sayyed Ali and Abdus Samad. Earlier, both of them had served under the patronage of Humayun in Kabul and accompanied him to India when he regained his throne in 1555. More than a hundred painters were employed, most of whom were Hindus from Gujarat, Gwalior and Kashmir, who gave a birth to a new school of painting, popularly known as the Mughal School of miniature Paintings.

A folio from the Hamzanama

One of the first productions of that school of miniature painting was the Hamzanama series, which according to the court historian, Badayuni, was started in 1567 and completed in 1582. The Hamzanama, stories of Amir Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet, were illustrated by Mir Sayyid Ali. The paintings of the Hamzanama are of large size, 20 x 27" and were painted on cloth. They are in the Persian safavi style. Brilliant red, blue and green colours predominate; the pink, eroded rocks and the vegetation, planes and blossoming plum and peach trees are reminiscent of Persia. However, Indian tones appear in later work, when Indian artists were employed.

After him, Jahangir encouraged artists to paint portraits and durbar scenes. His most talented portrait painters were Ustad Mansur, Abul Hasan and Bishandas.

Shah Jahan (1627–1658) continued the patronage of painting. Some of the famous artists of the period were Mohammad Faqirullah Khan, Mir Hashim, Muhammad Nadir, Bichitr, Chitarman, Anupchhatar, Manohar and Honhar.

Aurangzeb had no taste for fine arts. Due to lack of patronage artists migrated to Hyderabad in the Deccan and to the Hindu states of Rajasthan in search of new patrons.

Rajput Miniatures, 16th to 19th century[edit]

An 18th-century Rajput painting by the artist Nihâl Chand

Rajput painting, a style of Indian painting, evolved and flourished, during the 18th century, in the royal courts of Rajputana, India. Each Rajput kingdom evolved a distinct style, but with certain common features. Rajput paintings depict a number of themes, events of epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Krishna's life, beautiful landscapes, and humans. Miniatures were the preferred medium of Rajput painting, but several manuscripts also contain Rajput paintings, and paintings were even done on the walls of palaces, inner chambers of the forts, havelies, particularly, the havelis of Shekhawati.

The colours extracted from certain minerals, plant sources, conch shells, and were even derived by processing precious stones, gold and silver were used. The preparation of desired colours was a lengthy process, sometimes taking weeks. Brushes used were very fine.

South Indian miniatures, 16th to 18th century[edit]

The southern tip of the Indian peninsula is today composed of four states of Dravidian languages (Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu). Tamil, a living language widely spoken in Tamil Nadu and to the south of Andhra Pradesh, generated from the beginning of our era a very rich classical literature. The main historical, poetic and mystical texts of Sanskrit origin have been rewritten in Tamil with many variants and denote a country strongly Brahmanic. Religion and mythology permeate everyday life; the numerous temples give rise to pilgrimages, to feasts dedicated to multiple deities and their innumerable legends. The syncretism inherent in the Hindu religion multiplies to infinity the sectarian, regional, even local variants.

In 1565, after the defeat of Talikota, Vijayanagara, the last and vast Hindu kingdom of southern India, was dismembered by the Muslim coalition forces. Some families of artists exiled further east, in Andhra Pradesh, where their tradition was maintained with the kalamkari, fabrics painted mythological tales that narrators explain around the temples. In the south, towards the Nayakas provinces, the painters on paper remained as faithful to these conventional prototypes.

At 18th century, many painters are installed in the former "Presidency of Madras (Chennai)". They were Telugu language. They produced a popular imagery, very synthetic and bright colors, for pilgrims who went in large numbers in the holy cities. These extraordinarily fresh paintings are an exceptional documentary mine on Indian mythology and ethnography. They compose an incomparable repertoire of forms. It contains epic tales or great myths, and the many Hindu deities with symbolic attributes and figured in precise postures according to a rigorous iconographic codification. The gods recognize themselves by their gestures, the attributes and the arms that recall their exploits and that they hold with their pairs of arms. They can have more when they want to show their power or anger.[29]

Assam miniatures, 16th to 19th century[edit]

Citra Bhagavata illustration 2.jpg

Most of Assam are Hindu (65%) and Muslim (31%). The different communities speak 44 languages but mainly Assamese (49%) and Bengali (28%).

The Assam is known for miniature paintings in manuscripts of the 16th to 19th century, financed by the monasteries (the Sattra s) or the kings of the people Âhom. The religious manuscripts on the tales of Bhagavata, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the epics were thus illustrated with miniatures (illuminations). Since the 1930s contemporary artists have taken up the miniature style on their canvases.[30]

Provincial Mughal Miniatures, from the 18th century[edit]

As a result of the collapse of the imperial power, many families of artists took refuge with other patrons, Rajput rulers or nabab (nawab) who ruled the provinces of the empire. Among the latter, schools – the so-called provincial Mughals (in Faizabad, Murshidabad, and Farrukhabad) – of a new style, flourished. A bit like troubadour painting, the late Mughal miniature favored representations of zenana (ladies' apartment), romantic or poetic subjects from literature. To the warlord's bravery came the loving and unhappy hero and the recurring romantic themes (like the meeting of Shirin and Khosrow, or of Sahib and Wafa at the well for example). The almost magical religious subject of Ibrahim Sultan of Balkh served by the angels was also common, as was the picturesque hunting of the Bhils (aborigines of northern Deccan) or women visiting a sadhu (Hindu ascetic). Finally, ragamala ("garland of raga"), suites illustrating musical themes of Indian origin, were also fashionable.[31]

Company miniatures, 18th to 20th century[edit]

Dip Chand. Portrait of an East India Official Company, 1760–64.

Company style or Company painting (kampani kalam in Hindi) is a term for a hybrid Indo-European style of paintings made in India by Indian artists, many of whom worked for European patrons in the British East India Company or other foreign Companies in the 18th and 19th centuries,[32] with centers in Patna, Calcutta, Chennai, Delhi, Lucknow ....Dating from 18th to 20th century, these pieces often imitated the European style.

In general, these works are characterized by their technique, very different from the miniature (but mostly with miniature and occasionally roll formats), as they are painted in a wider, gouache-like manner, often diluted to mimic watercolor. Paintings were mostly on paper, but sometimes on ivory, especially those from Delhi. They were mostly intended to be kept in portfolios or albums; the muraqqa or album was very well established among Indian collectors, though usually including calligraphy as well, as least in Muslim examples. The style developed in the second half of the 18th century, and by the early nineteenth century production was at a considerable level, with many of the cheaper paintings being copied by rote. By the 19th century many artists had shops to sell the work and workshops to produce it.

Another essential distinction for Company Paintings is that they are most often executed on European papers. Original styles were drawn, varying according to the regions and cities where the sponsors were staying. The use spread then to represent the trades, the castes, the costumes in suites connected in albums for the travelers.[33]

Other historical schools[edit]

The puranic paintings of Kerala, 8th to 19th century[edit]

Thodeekkalam Shiva Temple, Kannur district

Kerala is known, being close to Rajasthan, for having the largest collection of murals based on Puranic themes (ancient Indian mythology). Most of these paintings were made between the 15th and 19th century, many even date back to 8th century.

The temples and palaces of Kerala are invariable sagas of Hindu Gods and Goddesses as well as visual poems of their heroic deeds. Pigments, glue, brushes etc. have all been made from natural plants and minerals.

The earliest murals of Kerala have been found in the Thirunandikkara Temple Cave now belonging to the neighboring Tamil Nadu State Ward, Kanyakumari.

Kerala's largest wall panel – the Gajendra Moksha – is at Krishnapuram Palace near Kayamkulam in the Alappuzha district. The vast murals depicting scenes from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Bhagavata, are preserved at Mattancherry Palace in the Ernakulam neighborhood. The murals of the Temple of Shiva at Ettumanoor provide the oldest forms of Dravidian mural art.

See more: Kerala mural painting

The Chola Frescoes from Tamil Nadu, 9th to 13th century[edit]

Chola Fresco of Dancing girls. Brihadisvara Temple c. 1100 C.E.

The Chola Dynasty of southern India is very old. Mentioned in the Mahābhārata, it gave its name to the coast of Coromandel (after Chola mandalam, "the land of Chola") in Tamil Nadu.

Cholas frescoes from the second period of their diet (850-1250) have been discovered under more recent paintings. During the reign of the Nayak (1529–1736), Chola frescoes were covered with Tanjore paintings. The first of the Chola frescoes to be discovered, was in 1931 in the temple of Brihadisvara.[34][35]

Nirmal School from Telangana, from 14th century[edit]

Nirmal painting

Nirmal paintings are a popular form of Nirmal paintings in the Adilabad Telangana district. They are an industry on a small scale in the city. The artisans form a community and stay in Nirmal. The paintings have golden shades. The evolution of the art of Nirmal dates back to the dynasty of Kakatiya. This art was practiced in 14th century by a group of artisans known as Naqash. The Mughals loved and subsidized this art. It was in the 1950s that Lady Hyderi brought these artisans to the princely state of Hyderabad and promoted their crafts. The colors of these paintings are extracted from the minerals of herbs and other plants. The themes are inspired by Ajanta and other Mughal arts.

Mysore painting, from 14th century[edit]

Mysore painting

Mysore painting is an important form of classical South Indian painting that originated in the town of Mysore in Karnataka. These paintings are known for their elegance, muted colours and attention to detail. The themes for most of these paintings are Hindu Gods and Goddesses and scenes from Hindu mythology. In modern times, these paintings have become a much sought-after souvenir during festive occasions in South India.

The process of making a Mysore painting involves many stages. The first stage involves the making of the preliminary sketch of the image on the base. The base consists of cartridge paper pasted on a wooden base. A paste made of zinc oxide and arabic gum is made called "gesso paste". With the help of a thin brush all the jewellery and parts of throne or the arch which have some relief are painted over to give a slightly raised effect of carving. This is allowed to dry. On this thin gold foil is pasted. The rest of the drawing is then painted using watercolours. Only muted colours are used.

Tanjore painting, from 17th century[edit]

Tanjore style painting depicting the ten Sikh Gurus with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana.

Tanjore painting is an important form of classical South Indian painting native to the town of Tanjore (Thanjavur) in Tamil Nadu. The art form dates back to the early 9th century, a period dominated by the Chola rulers, who encouraged art and literature. These paintings are known for their elegance, rich colours, and attention to detail. The themes for most of these paintings are Hindu Gods and Goddesses and scenes from Hindu mythology. In modern times, these paintings have become a much sought-after souvenir during festive occasions in South India.

The process of making a Tanjore painting involves many stages. The first stage involves the making of the preliminary sketch of the image on the base. The base consists of a cloth pasted over a wooden base. Then chalk powder or zinc oxide is mixed with water-soluble adhesive and apply it on the base. To make the base smoother, a mild abrasive is sometimes used. After the drawing is made, decoration of the jewelry and the apparels in the image is done with semi-precious stones. Laces or threads are also used to decorate the jewelry. On top of this, the gold foils are pasted. Finally, dyes are used to add colours to the figures in the paintings.

Modern painting[edit]

The Modern Indian art movement in Indian painting is considered to have begun in Calcutta in the late nineteenth century.The old traditions of painting had more or less died out in Bengal and new schools of art were started by the British.[36] Initially, protagonists of Indian art such as Raja Ravi Varma drew on Western traditions and techniques including oil paint and easel painting. A reaction to the Western influence led to a revival in primitivism, called as the Bengal school of art, which drew from the rich cultural heritage of India. It was succeeded by the Santiniketan school, led by Rabindranath Tagore's harking back to idyllic rural folk and rural life. Despite its country-wide influence in the early years, the importance of the School declined by the 'forties' and now it is as good as dead.[37]

Kalighat from Calcutta, 1850–1940[edit]

Ravana and Hanuman, Kalighat school of painting, c1880

While colonial power reduced rural handicrafts to almost nothing in the nineteenth century, village people migrated to Calcutta, the British capital of the time, to survive. At the same time, schools of art and painting, following the canons of traditional Mughal art, as well as other artistic forms of Hindu painting schools, began to lose their usual patrons, because the loss of political influence of local elites.

It was then that the painting Kalighat appeared to try to fill the void of the world of art in Bengal. The first Kalighat was scroll paintings and the painters were storytellers and singers.

The villagers who were coming to Calcutta gathered around a place called Kalighat, because that is where the famous temple of the Goddess Kali is located. These people had brought with them the rustic style of their rural art, and in a short time their style of painting became known as the Kalighat style. They were made by strokes of brushes vigorous shaded keys.

Kalighat painting exhibits two different styles:

  • The traditional or oriental style: In the 19th century, Kalighat paintings were limited to themes of the Hindu religion, the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism largely dominating.
  • Modern or Western style: At the beginning of 20th century, subjects centered on the social and political questions of the time appeared in the form of satires.

The support of these paints evolved, too, over time, paper replacing the fabric as the main material.

The success of this art then perished gradually. Its initial popularity during the colonial era, ascribed to its ethnic character, which so viciously opposed the Western forms of art, gave way to a decline that was consecrated by "scholars". Moreover, this art was far from the forms advocated by the Hindu texts, so it could not be sacred. However, from the beginning of the 20th century, the importance of folk art as a form of cultural identity of the nation became evident; Kalighat's paintings regained the place they deserve, and the emphasis was on promoting them seriously.[38][39][40][41]

Bengal School of Art: "Nationalist" Art, 1900[edit]

Bharat Mata by Abanindranath Tagore (1871–1951), a nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore, and a pioneer of the movement

The Bengal School of Art was an influential style of art that flourished in India during the British Raj in the early 20th century. It was associated with Indian nationalism, but was also promoted and supported by many British arts administrators.

The Bengal school arose as an avant garde and nationalist movement reacting against the academic art styles previously promoted in India, both by Indian artists such as Ravi Varma and in British art schools. Following the widespread influence of Indian spiritual ideas in the West, the British art teacher Ernest Binfield Havel attempted to reform the teaching methods at the Calcutta School of Art by encouraging students to imitate Mughal miniatures. This caused immense controversy, leading to a strike by students and complaints from the local press, including from nationalists who considered it to be a retrogressive move. Havel was supported by the artist Abanindranath Tagore, a nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore painted a number of works influenced by Mughal art, a style that he and Havel believed to be expressive of India's distinct spiritual qualities, as opposed to the "materialism" of the West. Abanindranath Tagore's best-known painting, Bharat Mata (Mother India), depicted a young woman, portrayed with four arms in the manner of Hindu deities, holding objects symbolic of India's national aspirations. Tagore later attempted to develop links with Far-Eastern artists as part of an aspiration to construct a pan-Asianist model of art. Those associated with this Indo-FarEastern model included Nandalal Bose, Mukul Dey, Kalipada Ghoshal, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Vinayak Shivaram Masoji, B.C. Sanyal, Beohar Rammanohar Sinha, and subsequently their students A. Ramachandran and a few others.

The Bengal school's influence on Indian art scene gradually started alleviating with the spread of modernist ideas post-independence. K. G. Subramanyan's role in this movement is significant.

Indian Society of Oriental Art: The School of Abanindranath Tagore, 1907[edit]

In 1907 Abanîndranâth Tagore and his brother Gaganendranath Tagore opened Indian Society of Oriental Art .

The best known artists are Abanindranath Tagore, Surendranath Ganguly, Nandalal Bose, Asitkumar Haldar and Gaganendranath Tagore.[42]

Santiniketan: The school of Rabindranath Tagore, 1920[edit]

Women Bengales, ca. 1950, Manishi Dey

Sixty years old, Rabindranath Tagore goes back to drawing and painting. This late entry into painting is explained by the admiration he devoted to the pictorial work of his nephew, the painter Abanindranath Tagore. For a long time, he therefore limited himself to using his artistic eye for his own calligraphy, embellishing the scribbles, the stripes and the arrangement of the words of his manuscripts with simple artistic leitmotivs, including purely rhythmic motifs. When he decided to take the brushes, he was, as for his other disciplines, very prolific. Several successful exhibitions of his works have taken place in Europe, first in Paris, encouraged by artists met in the South of France.[43]

To see: Santiniketan: The Making of a Contextual Modernism, 1997[44]

Contemporary metropolitan painting[edit]

Western influences[edit]

During the colonial era, Western influences had started to make an impact on Indian art. Some artists developed a style that used Western ideas of composition, perspective and realism to illustrate Indian themes.[45] Others, like Jamini Roy, are consciously inspired by folk art.

At the time of independence in 1947, several Indian art schools provided access to modern techniques and ideas. Galleries have been created to present these artists. Modern Indian art generally reveals the influence of Western styles, but is often inspired by traditional Indian themes and images. Indian artists began to gain international recognition, first in the Indian diaspora, then among non-Indian organizations.[46] Since the 1980s, Indian artists have brought with them more recent concepts and styles, such as Devajyoti Ray, Vagaram Choudhary, Karmokar Prakash, Jahar Dasgupta, Bihon Choudhuri, Atul Dodiya and many others. have enriched Indian modern art.[47]

Pseudorealistic Indian painting. Couple, Kids and Confusion. by Devajyoti Ray.

The geography of the contemporary art market makes it possible to note the insertion of the big cities of emerging countries into a network of world metropolises. In India, the years following the economic liberalization of 1991 are characterized by a marked increase in demand and by new forms of investment in contemporary art. The market of contemporary Indian art then experienced a meteoric rise in Delhi and Mumbai, especially from the years 2003–2005. The art market in India is original in having developed through the engagement of the private sector, which has replaced the role of the government in supporting artists and building cultural infrastructure. New actors – collectors, NRIs (Non Resident Indians), women from well-to-do backgrounds – invest in the development of a trajectory of Indian modernity and witness new urban, social and cultural issues in a country with weight traditions still very strong.[48][49]

Below the contemporary metropolitan schools in India:

Bombay Art Society, created in 1888[edit]

The Bombay Art Society, the first art organization in Mumbai, was created in 1888 to promote contemporary art. Since 1952 the Bombay Art Society is located in the Jehangir Art Gallery with its annual exhibitions.

Bombay Contemporary India Artists Group (Young Turks), 1941[edit]

The "Young Turks" were supported by the rector of the School of Fine Arts in Bombay (the "Sir J.J. School of Art"), Charles Gerrard. Their style was influenced by traditional Indian art and Western Post-Impressionism.

The most famous artists are P. T. Reddy, B. C. Sanyal and Sailoz Mookherjea. Their first exhibition was in 1941.[50]

Calcutta Group and social realism, 1943–53[edit]

In the year of the Bengal famine of 1943 (4 to 5 million dead) was created the Calcutta Group. Artists, novelists and filmmakers have tried to portray the horror of famine in their work. Bengali painter Zainul Abedin was one of the first documentarists of the famine with his sketches depicting the bodies of the victims. With the book Hungry Bengal (November 1943) the artist Chittaprosad Bhattacharya shows the most morbid details of famine. The United Kingdom confiscates and censors the book.

The main members were the sculptor Pradosh Das Gupta (founder) and the painters Subho Tagore, Paritosh Sen, Gopal Ghose, Nirode Mazumdar and Zainul Abedin.

The group began to exhibit in 1945, and exhibited with the 'Bombay Progressive Artists' Group' in Bombay in 1950.[51][52][50]

Kashi Shailee , 1947[edit]

Inspired by the vernacular painting of Uttar Pradesh (and Benares) and Indian miniature painting, the young Ram Chandra Shukla (born in 1925) created a school in 1947 called Kashi Shailee .

See also: Samikshavad and Intuitive paintings by Shukla.

Bombay Progressive Artists' Group , 1947–1956[edit]

The Bombay Progressive Artists' Group created soon after India became independent in 1947, aimed to establish "a new way of to express India in the post-colonial era "in opposition to the nationalism of the" Bengal School of Art ".

The founders are six artists graduated from the "Sir JJ School of Art" in Bombay: K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, Maqbool Fida Husain, Sayed Haider Raza and F. N. Souza (Souza was expelled from school in 1945 for nationalism and went to Paris!).

Although the group was dissolved in 1956, it influenced the evolution of Indian art. Almost all the great Indian artists of the 1950s were associated with this group, including Bal Chhabda, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta and Akbar Padamsee. Art historians such as Rai Anand Krishna have also referred to these works by modern artists who reflect Indian philosophy[53]

Silpi Chakra , New Delhi, 1949–68[edit]

Most of the artists of Silpi Chakra were refugees from Pakistan after the partition.

Founders: B. C. Sanyal, Pran Nath Mago, Kanwal Krishna, KS Kulkarni, Dhanraj Bhagat
Other artists: Satish Gujral, Ram Kumar, Dinkar Kowshik, Bishamber Khanna, Jaya Appasamy, Avinash Chandra.[54]

Neo-Tantrism, from 1950[edit]

Sayed Haider Raza – 1995

Tantric art is a separate category of Indian pictorial productions. It is often presented as a form both very old and very conceptual, even abstract. Initially, tantra are texts that preach rituals that are antipodes of Brahmanical purity norms, including geometric diagrams. These texts had an influence on Indian artists of the years 1950–60. They interpreted them as Indian abstract forms and then, in the climate of the Counterculture, as 'transgressive' forms to criticize Indian society from within. We know the vogue of "oriental spirituality" on hippie movements, but we often forget the counterpart of this fashion among young Indians, especially in artistic circles, in painting but also poetry, dance or cinema.

Some painters, like Raza, are inspired by philosophical-mystical concepts like the point (bindu) and the spiral. The spiral swirl majestically from the central bindu, its circular movement of deployment in successive turns, symbolizes in the Hindu culture the evolution of human consciousness, or the cosmic evolution of the universe. It can also be traversed in both directions, in an evolutionary or involutive direction of return to the origin. Many painters thus explored this geometric and refined aesthetic as a form of indigenous abstract art.[55][56]

Some neo-Tantric artists: Pakhal Tirumal Reddy, Ghulam Rasool Santosh, Raza, Mahirwan Mamtani, and Biren De.

Baroda Group of Artists , 1956–1962[edit]

The Baroda Group of Artists was an artist collective linked to the Baroda School of Fine Arts (Vadodara) in Gujarat.

Inspired by professors at the School of Fine Arts, Narayan Shridhar Bendre and K.G. Subramanyan, the group seeks a modern aesthetic. It reflects vernacular and mythological roots and social movements.

Artists: Ghulam Rasool Santosh, Ratan Parimoo, K.G. Subrahmanyan, Prabha Dongre, Shanti Dave, K. Patel, Triloke Kaul, Vinay Trivedi, Narayan Shridhar Bendre, Balkrishna Patel , Jyoti Bhatt, Prafull Dave, Ramesh Pandya ...

Exhibitions: Baroda, April 1956; Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay, March 1957; Alliance Française Gallery, Bombay, October 1958; Jehangir Art Gallery, Bombay, December 1959; Roopa Gallery and Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay, January 1961.[57][58]

See also: University of Baroda Faculty of Fine Arts.

Calcutta Painters' Group , 1962[edit]

The Calcutta Painters' Group created in 1962, makes a break with the old Bengali schools, and explain that they are the successors of the "Calcutta Group created in 1943". They are a derivative of the Society of Contemporary Artists .

Artists: Jogen Chowdhury (founder), Sarbari Roy Chowdhury, Bijan Choudhary, Prokash Karmakar (who also creates his own group, the Prokash Karmakars' Society of Artists in 1962), Ganesh Pyne, Isha Mohammad, Rabin Mondal, Bimal Dasgupta, Niren Sengupta, Dhiraj Chowdhury, Sandip Sarkar.

Group 1890 , Bhavnagar, 1962–63[edit]

The group (created in the address House No. 1890 in Bhavnagar, Gujarat ) was directed by Jagdish Swaminathan, and had as objective to create contemporary art anchored in Indian traditions.

Artists: Jagdish Swaminathan, Jeram Patel, Ambadas Khobragade, Jyoti Bhatt, Rajesh Mehra, Sheikh Gulammohammed, Raghav Kaneria, Reddappa Naidu, Eric Bowen, SG Nikam, Balkrishna Patel, Himmat Shah ...

The group had a single exhibition, with a mixture of figurative art and abstract art, in New Delhi in 1963. The group publishes their manifesto but not a single work was sold.[59]

Cholamandal Artists' Village and the Madras Movement of Art , 1966[edit]

Cholamandal Artists' Village was founded in 1966 by members of the Madras Movement of Art (founded in 1965)[60] and extends over 3 hectares (7.4 acres) to 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of the Adyar River. It is the largest artist cooperative in India.

The Madras Movement of Art is pioneers of modern art in South India (Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu) with their figurative painting and abstract painting.

One of the founders of the Madras Movement of Art and the Cholamandal Artists' Village is K. C. S. Paniker who had already founded the Progressive Painters' Association (P.P.A) in Chennai in 1944.

Artists: K. C. S. Paniker, J Sultan Ali, K. Mr. Adimoolam, Alphonso Arul Doss, Anthony Doss, Reddappa Naidu, Akkitham Narayanan, N Ramanujam, M Senathipathi, S. G. Vasudev, Velu Viswanadhan ...

Samikshavad : a socio-political movement, 1974[edit]

Ram Chandra Shukla, "Politicians of Today"

The Samikshavad is the first indigenous movement of modern art in India, which began in northern India in 1974. Ram Chandra Shukla, Banaras Hindu University Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), is the inspirer and the initiator.

Samikshavad has a very different identity from western artistic movements of which he is neither influenced nor inspired. Samikshavad's main source of inspiration is social, political, cultural and economic problems in India. His goal is to free the art of obligations and socialize it, to move from a mysterious art to something with a purpose. An anti-Western, anti-individualist, anti-formalist, anti-imitation (of the art of the past), anti-sham, anti-corruption, anti-"Confused Creativity" (against "LSD" creativity?)...

Among the few artists who have been inspired by this movement are Ravindra Nath Mishra, Hridya Narayan Mishra, Santosh Kumar Singh, Virendra Singh Prasad, Ram Singh Shabd, Raghuvir Sen Dhir, Ved Prakash Mishra, Gopal Madhukar Chaturvedi, Bala Dutt Pandey ...

See Samikshavad's Manifesto

See also: Kashi Shailee and Intuitive paintings of Shukla.

Intuitive paintings, 2005[edit]

Ram Chandra Shukla begins in 2005 a movement called intuitive paintings . His paintings show his feelings and spiritual experiences. He is now doing modern miniatures with markers and pens.

See also: Kashi Shailee and Samikshavad of Shukla.

Outsider Art[edit]

An Outsider Art Fair was organized in New Delhi in 2012 and in 2014.[61]

Street Art [edit]

Street Art Mumbai. RF Anders Laustsen

In Bombay the Street Art is institutionalized with a project that covers several neighborhoods. Hundreds of artists participate with the sole rule of not displaying political, religious and advertising messages. The most impressive wall has a length of 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) (Senapati Bapat Marg).[63]

Coming out of the chaotic streets of central Delhi is the new playground for street artists. It is located in the narrow streets of Hauz Khas Village where you will be greeted by black and white portraits of Indian personalities. This is one of the works that are now scattered throughout Lohdi District, the first Indian district devoted solely to street art.

The creation of this district is the result of the initiative of St + art India, an NGO of street artists who aims to democratize art in the Indian subcontinent. The artists explain that "art in India is reserved for a certain elite. There are galleries but are not active in terms of programming. There are museums but they do not offer preferential rates to the poorest. We want the masses to access art for free."

Since its inception in 2014, St + art has hosted local and international artists to paint the walls of Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. In 2016, the collective teamed up with India's largest container company. They were allowed to paint a hundred and their work could be seen by sailors and passers-by around the world.

Beyond art, St + Art has humanitarian and social ambitions. They collaborate with the government for hygiene prevention campaigns. The initiative has even received the support of Bollywood figures. In addition, the group promotes Indian tribal and ancestral art to perpetuate their culture. These initiatives are very popular with the public and the authorities. In India, street art seems to be consensus and it's already a victory in itself.[64]

Contemporary vernacular painting[edit]

Vernacular painting (tribal and rural)[65][66] means a living art (contemporary[67]), anchored in the past (myths, beliefs and traditions). The vernacular art is based on the collective memory.[68]

Contemporary tribal painting[edit]

Ladoo Bai (Bhil artiste) devant son œuvre à Tribal Museum Bhopal. RF Anders Laustsen

Most of the Indigenous tribes (or aborigines or Ādivāsī) are animists. Their artists illustrate nature and gods embodied in nature and in everyday life, and often include Hindu gods and rituals.

These are the ones who developed a pictorial expression:

Baiga, Bhil, Deewaru, Garasia, Gond, Korwa Hill, Kurumba, Meena, Monpa, Nicobara, Rajwar, Rathwa, Rengma, Saharia, Santhal , Saura, Tharu, Waghri, Warli and the Hazaribagh tribes.[69]

Some pictorial traditions are ancestral like those of the Pithora of the Rathwa and Bhil tribes. Others are recent, although rooted in the roots, as the school of "Jangarh Kalam"[70] of the Pardhan Gond. The paintings of Hill Korwa are enigmatic and remain mysterious.

Artists: Jangarh Singh Shyam (Gond), Jivya Soma Mashe (Warli), Venkat Shyam (Gond), Bhajju Shyam (Gond), Mayank Shyam (Gond), Subhash Vyam (Gond), Japani Shyam (Gond), Ladoo Bai (Bhil), Bhuri Bai (Bhil), Fatya Pema (Bhil), Shantaram Tumbada (Warli ) ...

Rural (non-tribal) contemporary painting[edit]

Painting on roll: Patta Chitra , Cheriyal , Thangka and Phad [edit]

See: Painting on Roll: Patta Chitra, Cheriyal, Thangka and Phad

Tala Patta Chitra miniatures from Orissa[edit]

See: Tala Patta Chitra miniatures

Chitravana from Madhya Pradesh[edit]

Chitravana is an art that has existed for hundreds of years in the cities of Gwalior, Jhansi, Ujjain, Malwa and Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh. It's an art that decorates walls and doors, and now it's also on paper. Professional artists, mostly men, illustrate the gods and goddesses of their religion (Hinduism, Jainism, and even Islam ...), but also nature and animals, before and during religious holidays.[71]

Kalamkari of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat[edit]

Kalamkari textile depicting scenes from Lord Krishna's life displayed at National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, New Delhi

The art of Kalamkari [72] is mainly used in Iran, in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but also in Gujarat by the Vaghri tribe. "Kalam" means the pen and "kari" means art or the hand. This is an unbleached cotton canvas, hand painted using a Kalam, cut bamboo with a rag used as a reservoir, using vegetable dyes. The traditional themes are the representation of epics and purana s (Indian mythology), as well as floral motifs. Over the ages, the iconography has been enriched according to the tastes of the buyers and the imagination of the artist: miniatures Mogholes, trees of life, Persian rugs, scenes of the everyday life etc.

Khovar and Sohrai of Hazaribagh[edit]

The motives are there to celebrate the marriages (the art "Khovar") and to celebrate the harvest and worship the cows (the art "Sohrai").[73]

See more: Khovar and Sohrai painting

Madhubani (or Mithila ) from Bihar[edit]

Manisha Jha, Madhubani artist. RF Anders Laustsen

There is the painting Madhubani [Madhubani Painting] (or Mithila)[74][75][76] especially in Nepal and in Bihar. Madhubani's painting is a painting style from Mithila in the state of Bihar.

Madhubani painting is a term grouping all the ritual paintings of the region of Mithila in Bihar (border with Nepal) for centuries by caste women:

  • Dusadh (paintings composed mainly of tattoos),
  • Kayasth (paintings in red and black),
  • and Brahmins (richly colored paintings)

According to tradition, this style of painting was born at the time of Ramayana, when King Janak asked artists to make paintings for the wedding of his daughter, Sita with the Hindu god Rama. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the women of this village painted naive drawings on the walls of the bridal chambers, depicting divinities as well as animals, plants, and so on. Today men also paint; the sources of inspiration are diverse, religious or secular: representations of gods and goddesses, magical tantric representations, life of the village, but also themes closer to nature, such as trees of life.

Other religious themes: Krishna, Radha (sublimated love in all its facets), Ganesh (the auspicious and generous god-elephant), Sarasvathi (the goddess of the arts) .

Rangoli : Alpana, Kalam, Kolam, Mandana ...[edit]

A rangoli is a painting made on floor (the Bhumi Chitra).

Rangoli in Singapore

The Indians integrate art into their daily lives by drawing rangolis also called Alpana or Alpona (in Bengal), Mandana (Rajasthan), Kolam (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), Kalam (Kerala), Aripan (Bihar), Rangavallie (Maharastra), Muggu (Andhra Pradesh), Saathiya (Gujarat) and Chowkpurna (Uttar Pradesh).[77]

In villages all over India, women make these drawings every morning on the thresholds or in the courtyard of houses or on the ground of temples. They first draw the outline of the geometric patterns with a white powder, usually limestone or rice, before filling it with a series of lines. In addition to adding a touch of art and beauty to the home or temple, the rangolis protect the family or sacred place.[78]

Alpana from Bengal[edit]

Alpana on an altar underneath a statue of the goddess Lakshmi

The painting Alpana or Alpona in Bengal are temporary and inseparable images of the seasonal female rites called brata.

The ceremonies occupy an essential place in the life of the villagers. Between domestic piety and celebration of the forces of nature, brata are dedicated to celestial bodies, deities, and more particularly to the goddess of abundance Lakshmi or Lokkhi. Some brata are very popular, some more exceptional. Still others are accompanied by songs and dances.

Some brata are very popular, some more exceptional. Still others are accompanied by songs and dances, and there are all kinds of them; for the protection of the children or the husband, to ensure good harvests and to cause the abundance of the rains, to reinforce the fertility of the alluvial plains. The texts and legends that accompany the drawings sing the triumph of the sun and the defeat of winter, others relate to the marriage of the moon with the sun in spring, still others celebrate the birth of spring and its marriage with the earth.[79]

Kalam from Kerala[edit]

Kalamezhuthu at the Poovattoor Temple

In Kerala, Kalam Painting (or Kalamezhuthu) are the preserve of certain communities of men: ritual painters whose hereditary task consists of elaborating anthropomorphic frescoes in temples and houses .

Almost invisible, Kalam paintings are not available to the morning walker like Kolam,[80] they are most often developed in the privacy and focus the attention of the family inside the house or devotees when they are drawn within the temple. These paintings made with mineral and vegetable powders serve as a support for the ceremonies in honor of the Goddess, the serpents and other deities of the Hindu pantheon. They are also developed for therapeutic purposes because in the mind of the Indian villager, diseases, sterility, premature death were and are still attributed to the supernatural powers or "seizing spirits" that should be coaxed or alleviated. annihilate with incantations, songs and symbolic gestures of the hands (mudra).[81]

Kolam from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka[edit]

Women drawing an intricate kolam outside the Mylapore Temple

The painting Kolam is particularly practiced in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Kolam is a geometrically inspired motif drawn with rice powder at the entrance of homes and businesses as a welcome and to bring good luck. Of an ephemeral nature, the Kolams are drawn freehand by letting the powder flow. They are deposited every morning in front of the entrance of the houses to bring prosperity. The art of Kolam is traditional and very old in India where it is generally transmitted from mother to daughter. Still alive in the villages, it tends to get lost in major urban metropolises, although it is not uncommon to meet there in front of the thresholds of many houses or shops.

Mandana from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh[edit]

Mandana art work from Shilpgram , Udaipur

The painting Mandana[82] in Rajasthan and in the north of Madhya Pradesh. Women paint the walls (especially in Rajastan) and the floors of their houses with geometric images to protect the house, for ritual feasts and especially for decorative reasons. Mandana painting (mandan = decoration) to a geometric and stylized ornamental vocabulary.

The vitality of the oral and pictorial memory of Rajasthan has been perpetuated by castes and tribes that history does not remember or mention very little: pastors Gujar, camel-drivers Raika, potters Kumbhar, Manghaniyar and Langa, the storytellers Bhopa, all those whose traditional task was to serve and entertain the aristocracy. Their wives are the guardians of pictorial traditions, some of whose motifs already appear on the pottery of the Indus civilization (3.000 to 2.000 BC). They draw on the threshold of the sacred diagrams, the Mandana, a kind of incantatory language stylized to the extreme in honor of the goddess Lakshmi, purveyor of prosperity and wealth.

Mandana is realized at the key moments of the life cycle: birth, engagement, weddings. For the Hindi Holi festival and every year in the month of Kartik (mid-October, mid-November, at the end of the harvest) on the occasion of the Dipavali festival, the houses receive the most sumptuous decorations and the goddess is celebrated Lakshmi lighting oil lamps. During the engagement, lions and lionesses appear on the walls of the bedroom. Mandana is an eminently ephemeral art, a seasonal imprint dedicated to erasure.[83]

Rogan from Gujarat[edit]

Detail of a classic 'patola' from Gujarat

The Rogan painting has existed for nearly 400 years in Kutch district in Gujarat. Rogan means in Persian an oil-based paint.

Only one family (8 men) from the Khatri community still practices this painting on fabrics. But the Khatri family taught the 60 women the Rogan technique, which was originally a man's job.

Rogan art is a painting on fabric, cotton and silk, enough to make stoles, tablecloths, tapestries, dresses, skirts, and namdas (carpet type), all unique. The process of making the painting and the technique of making the patterns are, to say the least, long and difficult.

The paint requires heated castor oil to obtain a thick paste that turns into a jelly, mixed with water and natural pigments. The color paste thus obtained is applied in fine lines on the fabric with the aid of a needle (or a buffer) which allows it to flow. The pattern of the frame thus conceived, the fabric is then folded in two and pressed on the painting to obtain a symmetrical drawing. The smaller patterns are added later. After each color exposure, the fabric dries a day in the sun.

Cotton, gold and silk are the basic threads used. The widest range of woven fabrics is made by the technique of dyeing which includes the techniques of "patola" (double ikat) and bandhej, dyeing using knotted threads, woven masharu and dyeing on cotton and silk.[84]

Sanjhi of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh[edit]

The art of Sanjhi (goddess) is related to the festival of the same name. In the rural provinces of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, unmarried young women celebrate this art in to find a husband and to have children.

Sanjhi, a vernacular derivation from Sandhya, evening, refers to an image depicting a religious theme, which is worshiped at evening time.[85]

Sanjhi Mata

The festival lasts 16 days following the full moon of the month of Bhadrapada (August / September) until the new moon of the month of Ashwin (September / October). This period is marked in the Hindu calendar as the fortnight dedicated to the ancestors. The spirits of the ancestors, then go to see their families. It is important to note that only unmarried women can do the Sanjhi, after their marriage the ritual no longer allows them to practice it. Married women who drop their ancestral lineage to join their husband's, are not allowed to practice Sanjhi in their fathers' house and must pass on this art and its ritual to their daughters who worship the ancestors of their fathers. Sanjhi is made on the walls with cow dung. On the surface we have bas-reliefs of cow dung. These motifs are decorated with flowers and multicolored paper strips. Each day we create a new pattern that is erased the next day. From the 13th day all patterns are collected in a parallelogram on the 4 doors. This image of Sanjhi is called Kila Kot literally "fortified dwelling".

Thapa from Rajasthan[edit]

The paintings Thapa painted on exterior walls are very free compositions featuring the animal and floral world and the village universe.

The vitality of the oral and pictorial memory of Rajasthan has been perpetuated by castes and tribes that history does not remember or mention very little. Their women trace on the walls of their modest houses of mud, powerful sacred frescoes called Thapa (Hindi term which designates an impression or a mark), poetic glossaries of the village life.

Thapa is realized at key moments in the life cycle. At a wedding, women draw welcome signs around the door. The Thapa have great freedom of tone and line, the originality of each composition reflects the style of women in the same household. They draw their inspiration from their collective memory as well as from the daily contemplation of nature, which they reinterpret cleverly in the stylization of the pictorial gesture. Thapa is an eminently ephemeral art, a seasonal imprint dedicated to erasure.[86]

Ayyanar of Tamil Nadu[edit]

Ayyanar, guardian folk deity of Tamil Nadu.

In Indian clay art, nothing is more monumental than the gigantic equestrian figures dedicated to Ayyanar, the mighty god who, according to the beliefs of the people of Tamil Nadu, protects the evil spirits of the villages, the life and goods.

A fierce horseman on a white horse seems to threaten the passer-by with his saber or whip. It is the god Ayyanar (or Aiyanar, Ayanar, Aiyanaar), the guardian of the villages, or his second Karuppaswami. His grimacing features testify to his supernatural power. Like an actor from Kathakali, the god overwrites anger and courage, rolling fierce eyes to repel the evil spirits that threaten the peaceful villages of Tamil Nadu in India.

The statues of Ayyanar, often monumental, are carefully painted in bright colors like all those of the Hindu gods. The applied style is reminiscent of the academic St. Sulpician imagery, in addition to exotic. The sweet face of Christ and his soothing gestures give way to warlike gestures. The donkey, the ox and the lamb are replaced by the elephant, the cow and the horse. European mumery and Indian expressionism find themselves in the same, unintentional, kitsch celebration.

The cult of Ayyanar, very popular, is everywhere in South India, in Tamil Nadu. Although born of the union of Shiva and Vishnu, under the feminine appearance of Mohini, Aiyanar does not belong to the Hindu pantheon, it is a local god. Aiyanar protects villagers from evil spirits, floods and droughts that threaten farming communities. It keeps the tank, essential to the survival of the village.

This warrior god is always escorted by Karuppaswami his lieutenant armed with a sword, 21 deities of less importance and a multitude of servants. It is sometimes difficult to identify all these gods and demi-gods and the Indians encountered on the spot sometimes give contradictory information but all agree on the protective power of Aiyanar. At night, Aiyanar and his army watch. They gallop all around the village and repel the spirits of evil in an endless fight. Yallee, who sees in all directions and in the future, guides them.


The top 25 contemporary Indian artists[edit]

The top 25 Indian artists are:[87]

  1. M. F. Husain
  2. V. S. Gaitonde
  3. Sayed Haider Raza
  4. Amrita Sher-Gil
  5. Ravi Varma
  6. Tyeb Mehta
  7. F. N. Souza
  8. Bhupen Khakhar
  9. Akbar Padamsee
  10. J. Swaminathan
  11. Ram Kumar
  12. Atul Dodiya
  13. Abanindranath Tagore
  14. Ganesh Pyne
  15. Krishen Khanna
  16. Subramanyan
  17. Subodh Gupta
  18. N. Mohamedi
  19. Somnath Hore
  20. Nandalal Bose
  21. Jitish Kallat
  22. Manjit Bawa
  23. Ravinder Reddy
  24. Nalini Malani
  25. Jogen Chowdhury


  • Andhra Pradesh, Visakhapatnam, Tribal Museum of Araku
  • Chhattisgarh, Jagdalpur, Tribal Museum
  • Gujarat, Ahmadabad, Tribal Museum of Gujarat : Painting Pithora and Warli
  • Gujarat, Ahmadabad, 'Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum'
  • Gujarat, Tejgadh, Vaacha – Museum of the Adivasi Voice : Pithora Painting[88]
  • Haryana, Chandigarh, Nek Chand Rock Garden
  • Haryana, Gurgaon, Museum of Folk and Tribal Arts [89]
  • Himachal Pradesh, Dharamsala, Kangra Art Museum
  • Karnataka, Mysore, Museum of Tribal Art
  • Kerala, Thrivandrum, KCS Paniker Gallery
  • Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Bharat Bhavan [90]
  • Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Tribal Heritage Museum [91]
  • Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, National Museum of Humanity [92]
  • Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho, Adivart Tribal and Museum of Folk Art
  • Madhya Pradesh, Bhimbetka rock shelters : Origin of Indian painting[93]
  • Maharashtra, Mumbai, Chhatrapati ... Museum : Miniatures
  • Maharashtra, Pune, Tribal Cultural Museum : Warli Painting
  • Manipur, Imphal, Tribal Museum
  • Orissa, Bhubaneswar, Museum of Tribal Arts and Artifacts
  • Rajastan, Udaipur, M.L. Verma Tribal Museum : Bhil, Sahariya, Meena
  • Tamil Nadu, Muthorai Palada (Ooty), "Tribal Research Center Museum"
  • Telangana, Hyderrabad, Nehru Centenary Tribal Museum : Saora Painting
  • Tripura, Agartala, "Tribal Cultural Museum of the State of Tripura"
  • Uttarakhand, Munsyary (Pithoragarh), Tribal Heritage Museum
  • Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Tribal Museum
  • West Bengal, Kolkata, Ethnographic Museum : Santhal, Tangka
  • West Bengal, Santiniketan, Tagore Memorial Museum

Some notable Indian paintings[edit]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]