Wooden Paintings

Wooden Paintings

As the name suggests, wooden painting (in the earlier days practiced as Panel Painting) is an early form of visual art where images are created on wood or multiple layers of wood.

Until the advent of the canvas till the 16th century, wood and panel was the only medium for painting other than frescos, which were done on the walls or vellum, done on a kind of medium made of leather. In India, interesting miniature type paintings are done on both single and multiple layers of woods including carvings and embossing effects.


History of Wood Painting

  • The history of wood or panel painting can be properly traced to the legacies of the Byzantine, Greek and the Roman heritage. Some of the earliest instances of wood paintings are found as early as 6th century B.C. But by 5th century B.C., this form of painting was done on bigger canvas, depicting various figures and battle scenes with the primary function to ornate the walls of the public buildings.

  • During the Christian era’s orthodox tradition of the 5th and the 6th century A.D., wooden paintings were used to depict images of Mother Mary and the Christ in churches all across Europe.

  • Panel painting reached its zenith by the turn of the 13th and the 14th century A.D. in Italy where religious paintings dominated the theme with some striking innovations.

  • By 15th century A.D., with Europe’s Enlightenment and humanism in full throttle, the theological aspect of the wooden painting gave way to anthropological aspects.

  • With modern developments of art, science and commerce, wooden panels evolved  into wooden canvas – a trend started in Venice, Italy.


How is a Wooden Painting made?

  • A large solid piece of wood is made into a canvas or a panel by the carpenter with great dexterity.

  • Preferably a vertical piece of wood is cut across the length of a tree, depending on the desired size of the canvas.

  • A mixture of resin and animal skin glue is employed over the piece of wood followed by covering it with linen. The mixture with linen is called ‘size’.

  • After drying of the 'size', gesso layers are applied to it. Each layer is sanded before laying of another one.

  • Design is done on the canvas with charcoal.

  • Hot wax is used as a medium for the pigments.

  • In later days, a mixture called tempera (including egg yolk) was used instead of the ’size’.

  • Indian wooden paintings are made in various methods, such as sponging, graining, stenciling and even wood cut.


Types of Wood Paintings

In various countries including India, there exists three broad types of wooden paintings. They are as follows:

i.   Wooden Relief Painting

ii.  Wooden Embossed Painting

iii. Wooden Carved Painting


Wooden Relief Painting

Wooden Relief Paintings are one of the most popular wood paintings in India. The types of wood these paintings use are:

  • Jackfruit wood

  • Margosa wood

  • Hairy and Sour Apple wood

However, the base of the paining is made up of macenite board. Out of all the categories of wooden paintings, this one of the most durable and stylistically superior in terms of color, theme and visual effect.  

The characteristics of the Wooden Relief Paintings are:

  • It can be cleansed easily.

  • It is made of very bright colors, therefore aesthetically and visually attractive.

  • Most of them are reminiscent of the Indian indigenous forms of cultural ramifications and images of Indian mythology.

  • Most of these paintings revolve around a central figure with a cultural speficity.

  • The central figure of these paintings are mainly human figures in motion or in some action.

Popular images of the Wooden Relief Paintings include:

  • The Dhaki (the drummer in Durga Puja)
  • The Dancing Santhal girls
  • Gautam Buddha
  • Indian Deity of good fortune – Ganesha, in different postures
  • The celebrated and recurrent theme of the mother and her child, feeding her child, and many other is a very significant theme for this type of painting
  • Two lovers dancing
  • Indian Deity of knowledge – Lakshmi, in different postures
  • Jesus Christ
  • Manipuri Dancers performing
  • Ram and Sita during Vanavaas (exile)
  • Vaishnavis
  • Krishna dancing
  • Gujarati woman performing Dandia dance
  • Bal Gopala
  • Village woman with child
  • Facial contours of deities like Kaali and Durga
  • Krishna and Yashoda
  • Meditating sage from Bengal : Lokenath
  • Naga Dance
  • Rajasthani Dance
  • Ek tara Baul
  • Kathakali Dance
  • Garba Pannel
  • Ajanta Lady
  • Mecca and Medina
  • Allah in Urdu
  • Jaipuri Dance
  • Bullock Cart
  • Keralian Dance
  • Floral Panel
  • Matka Lady

Wooden Embossed Paintings

Ideal in the form of gifts, these wooden embossed paintings are quite vibrant in terms of color, but most of the themes belong to the relief paintings made of wood.These paintings are used to depict kings and queens, indigenous beauties, and iconographic images of the royal families.

These paintings are made with a plywood base and the colors are extracted from vegetables and fruits. Some of the paintings of this category get special attention owing to their illustrious frames mostly made of metals. With the darning process of three to four times, these paintings take a little more time to get prepared to give an authentic antique impression.

Popular images of the Wooden Emboss Paintings include:

  • Meenakari Paintings
  • Krishna Rasa
  • Portraits of beautiful ladies – with names like Malika-ae-Husn, Husn e Ada, Adbhut Saundarya
  • Dancing and Grooming Lady
  • Royal Beauty
  • Two sisters
  • Beauty of the Village

It should be noted that these paintings have a close relation to Bharata’s Natyashastra, which interpreted the Sanskrit plays of love and devotion with the help of Rasas.


Wooden Carved Paintings

The recurrent theme of the Wooden Carved Paintings is Hindu gods and goddesses. These wood paintings are brought to life by the help of rich oil painting and outstanding shades.

These paintings are made from teak wood and contrasting colors of a 3D effect on the images. One of the best elements of home decor,  these paintings are hung on the wall to enhance the beauty of the room.

Popular images of the Wooden Carved Paintings include:

  • Maha Saraswati
  • Vighnharta
  • Gaja lord Ganesh
  • Om Laxmi Namayah
  • Alluring Krishna
  • Embracing Krishna
  • Gopala playing Flute
  • Krishna with the cows
  • Vinayaka
  • Blessed Ganesha
  • Divine Saraswati
  • Nataraja
  • Radha Krishna
  • Gajapati Gajanan
  • Krishna Rasa
  • Dashavatara
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