Indian Paintings

The practice or process of applying a material like paint or dye to a canvas or surface is known as painting. In India, painting has a history of over 7,000 years starting on the walls of rock shelters and caves like in Bhimbhetka, Ajanta, and Ellora. Then came miniature paintings on palm leaves, which could not be preserved and, therefore, many were lost with time. But as time passed by techniques of paintings evolved into those that could be preserved. Many were even trading commodities. Archeological evidence shows that Indian paintings were sold to Arab and Egyptian traders, centuries ago.

Indian Paintings can be categorized into two, on the basis of period:

  • Classical Paintings of India were those that were patronized by the independent kingdoms in India before the arrival of Europeans. Themes revolved around Hindu and Buddhist religions, nature and the life of the rulers. Madhubani, Mughal, Rajput, Tanjore, Mysore and Pahari Paintings were major styles of classical paintings.

  • Contemporary or Modern Paintings in India developed after the arrival of foreign traders like the British. The Bengal School of Painting was among the first school for contemporary paintings in India. Abstract painting is another style of modern art. Contemporary themes included politics, primitivism and pseudo-realism. Also seen was the western influence on classical styles of painting.

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Types of Paintings

Indian paintings can be classified in several ways like the following:

According to Region or School of Painting

  • Eastern Indian Painting
    1. Bengal School of Painting – This evolved in the early 20th century during the colonial rule in Bengal. Major painters were Rabindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy and Abanindranath Tagore.
    2. Madhubani Painting – It originated in the Mithila region of Bihar and is famous for its vivid shapes and use of colorful pigments on a range of surfaces including walls, floors, cloth and paper.
    3. Pattachitra – Orissa is the place of origin of this painting style that deals with Lord Jagannath.

  • Western Indian Painting
    1. Warli Painting – It has its origins in Maharashtra among the Warli tribals. It is known for its use of distinct colors to depict their lives.
    2. Rajasthani Painting – Also popular as Rajput Painting, it was done in both miniatures and murals.
    3. Gond Tribal Painting – This style of painting is well known in the tribal regions of Madhya Pradesh and is noted for its wall and canvas paintings.

  • North Indian Painting
    1. Basohli School of Painting – It has its origins in the Basohli town of Jammu and Kashmir, and was the first among the many Pahari Painting schools evolved in the later years.
    2. Kangra School of Painting – This school of painting originated in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh and was under the patronage of the Rajput rulers.
    3. Buddhist Painting – The Buddhist School of Painting in Dharamshala and Ladakh is famous for its Gompa murals and thangkas depicting the life of Lord Buddha.

  • South Indian Painting
    1. Tanjore Painting – This painting style in Thanjavur is well known for the usage of gold foil to preserve the paintings.
    2. Mysore School of Painting – It specializes in using pigments extracted from natural sources to help preserve the quality of the picture for centuries.

According to the Material, Medium or Surface used in Painting

  • Wooden Painting – This painting is done on a solid piece of wood or a wooden panel using colors mixed with hot wax, egg yolk or oil.
  • Oil Painting – This an old form of painting that uses pigments in oil. Oil used is extracted from linseed, walnut, safflower or poppy seed.
  • Silk Painting – The silk fabric is used as the surface to paint on. Buddhists are noted for using silk to paint thangkas.
  • Marble Painting – This is another surface used to paint on in India. Marble paintings are used as wall hangings, furniture and floorings that enhance the look of the room.
  • Gem Stone Painting – This Rajasthani style of painting uses colorful, powdered and small cut precious and semi precious stones as painting material.
  • Glass Painting – Stained glass windows are attractions of palaces and churches all over the world and also in India. This involves painting on the glass surface to produce a translucent image that looks bright when the sun shines on it.
  • Phad Painting – This is a type of scroll painting well known in Rajasthan. It involves using natural dyes on about 15 feet long cloth.
  • Charcoal Painting – Charcoal is used as a material for sketching or painting. This painting uses vine, compressed or powdered charcoal.

According to the Techniques of Painting

  • Kalamkari Painting – This 3,000 year old art form, from the state of Andhra Pradesh, deals with hand painting or block printing on cotton cloth using colors extracted from plants.
  • Batik Painting – This painting involves a resist-dyeing technique using melted wax on fabrics.
  • Fresco – This technique of painting is made on walls and ceilings using limestone solution as the binding agent for natural pigments.

According to the Themes of Paintings

  • Religious or Spiritual Painting – One of the oldest themes for painting in India, religious painting evokes the feeling of devotion. Scenes from the lives of Lord Krishna and Buddha, and epics Mahabharata and Ramayana are popular religious themes for Indian painters.
  • Figurative Painting – This is also among the oldest painting themes of India. Earlier portraits of gods and goddesses were painted. Later, figures of men and women became painting themes in the country. Figurative painting not only depicts the face and position of the human, it also captures the mood, emotion and feel of the figure.
  • Mughal Painting – Prevalent during the Mughal Period in India, these are miniature paintings depicting the life and times of the Mughal rulers. The rulers used to have court painters or illustrators who painted on manuscripts to describe the writings.
  • Ragamala Painting – This is a distinctive painting theme of India. It depicts the musical notations in the visual form of color and different elements. The elements represent the tone, emotion and feel of the Raga. Sahibdin is the best known ragamala painters in India.
  • Landscape Painting – This comprises all paintings that involve sceneries of nature, towns and buildings. Indian artists have captured the country’s topography and towns in a remarkably realistic and graceful way. Parag Natekar, Ajay De and Rajendra Poudel are famous landscape painters of India.
  • Still-life Painting – Painting of non movable objects like fruits, flowers, books, food, baskets and curtains are known as still-life painting. Subodh Gupta is a notable still life Indian painter.
  • Wildlife Painting – The Ranthambore School of Art is famous for its realistic paintings of animals and birds. It was started with the view to spread the message of conservation of critically endangered wildlife species. Rahul Parekh is a well known Indian Wildlife Painter.
  • Abstract Painting – Abstract painting is a visual form that is free from the constraints of pre-set shapes that we see around the world. It is part of contemporary art that is getting increasing popularity globally. Sujata Bajaj, Manish Pushkale and Gaitonde are noted abstract painters of India.

Classical Painting
Glass Painting
Gond Tribal Paintings
Kalamkari Paintings
Classical Paintings

Classical paintings describe the traditions of the country it is being...

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Glass Paintings

Glass Painting is the art of applying paint on glass sheets and wares.

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Gond Tribal Paintings

Gond tribal paintings are the tribal folk art painting of India.

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Kalamkari Paintings

Kalamkari paintings involve free hand drawing, painting,printing on cloth.

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Madhubani Paintings
Miniature Paintings
Tanjore Paintings
Wooden Paintings
Madhubani Paintings

Madhubani paintings follow the subjects of the Hindu myths, and deities.

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Miniature Paintings

Miniature paintings are noted for their minute detailing & brushstrokes.

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Tanjore Paintings

Tanjore paintings are inspired by classical dance, music & literature.

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Wooden Paintings

Wooden paintings are done on a piece(s) of wood.

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