Indian Miniature Painting – History and Techniques

Miniature paintings are one of the many things that make an Indian proud of his country’s rich cultural heritage. Miniature paintings originated long back in the history of India. Indian Paintings can be broadly classified as the murals and miniatures. Murals are huge works executed on the walls of solid structures, as in the Ajanta Caves and the Kailashnath temple.

Miniature paintings are executed on a very small scale on perishable material such as paper and cloth. The Palas of Bengal were the pioneers of miniature painting in India. The art of miniature painting reached its glory during the Mughal period. The tradition of miniature paintings was carried forward by the painters of different Rajasthani schools of painting like the Bundi, Kishangarh, Jaipur, Marwar and Mewar. The Ragamala paintings also belong to this school.

Indian miniature paintings are renowned worldwide for their beauty, finesse and impeccable detailing. The history of Indian Miniature Paintings can be traced to the 6-7th century AD, the time, when Kashmiri Miniatures first marked their appearance. Miniature Paintings have evolved over centuries carrying the influence of other cultures. The miniature artists gave self-expression on paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and walls.

Indian artists employed multiple perspectives unlike their European counterparts in their paintings. The idea was to convey reality that existed beyond specific vantage point. Some of the special Miniature paintings include illustrated manuscripts of Jains and Buddhists, the flowering of the Mughal, Rajput and Deccan miniatures. Themes used were from Indian epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvata Purana, Rasikpriya, Rasamanjiri as well as ragas of Indian classical music, etc.

A miniature painting, as the name signifies, is an intricate, colorful illuminations or painting, small in size, executed meticulously with delicate brushwork. The colors used in miniatures are generally derived from natural sources and materials. Some of the paintings use pure gold and other precious gems and stones to extract the colors for beautifying these miniature paintings. India has a long and varied tradition of miniature paintings.

Themes of Miniature Art Paintings.

After the Mughal reign, which lasted 200 years, by the second part of the 18th century, the Rajput Maharajahs became independent. They employed these highly skilled artists to replace their own artisans, leading to a sort of painting renaissance in northern India. The whole of Rajasthan divided into numerous princely states, patronized miniature art painting. These states had evolved a characteristic style of their own.The paintings of this era have their own unique style, being influenced by the surroundings- the deserts, lakes, hills and valleys, as the case may.Colorful glimpses of history are provided by these paintings depicting hunting and court scenes, festivals, processions, animal and bird life, and scenes from the Raagmala and Raaslila — Lord Krishna´s life story. Also, courtly lavishness and prosperity have been displayed.

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…The painters focused mostly on court scenes, royal portraits, natural scenes and landscapes.

Akbar (1556-1605) was the one who started encouraging of Mughal artist. After he had consolidated his political power, he built a new capital at Fatehpur Sikri where he collected artists from India and Persia. More than a hundred painters were employed, most of whom were Hindus from Gujarat, Gwalior and Kashmir. They worked under the two Persian master-artists Abdus Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali, but they were encouraged and inspired by Akbar.

After him, Jehangir encouraged artists to paint portraits and durbar scenes. His most talented portrait painters were Abul Hasan and Bishan Das. 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 painting

The Rajput School of Miniature Painting imbibed inspiration from the Krishna legends. The emphasis was more on the man and woman relationship and paintings were aesthetic portrayal of their emotion, love and passion. The lovemaking scenes of Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha are some of the finest specimens of the paintings. 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 Shekhawat.The colors 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 colors was a lengthy process, sometimes taking weeks. Brushes used were very fine.

Jodhpur School: The centre of this hand made paintings are love scenes then the other art figures. The Jodhpur School of Miniature paintings depict love scenes of lovers Dhola and Maru on camel back. There are hunting scenes with elephants and horses. The major colors used in this style of painting are gold and stone color.

Jaipur School:

Gods and goddesses, kings and durbars are very attractively painted on hand made papers by the artists.

Kangra School:

Real gold, stone, and water colors are squirrel-hair brushes are used. Glittering effect is extended using silver and golden colors.

Mewar School of Painting:

These represent hunting scenes which are painted on cloth and handmade paper using stone colors

Technique of Miniature Paintings:

A high degree of expertise is required as it involves the use of a very fine brush. The strokes should be absolutely perfect as they should be intricate, colorful and rational impressions. The colors used are mainly derived from minerals, vegetables, and precious stones, indigo, conch shells, gold and silver which are obtained through a painstaking process. Paper painting in Miniature art are done on old or new hand made paper of very fine quality that depict Animals, Birds, Butterfly, Mughal themes and more. One can put these as wall hanging decorations. Miniature paintings made of pure marble slabs that feature Mythology, Birds, Turbans, Women and Mughal themes can be used as table tops or wall frames as well. Miniature Painting is painstaking efforts of skill and talent exhibited by Indian artisans. They have been well acclaimed and received by the world all over.

Step 1: Choose a design

Step 2: First draw the required pattern on the trace paper and copy the design into the cloth/paper using carbon sheet

Step3 Now first paint the human figures. Then animals and other components of the picture. The background is painted last. This is to set each area’s base color

Step4 This step need fine brushes to beautify the Floors, carpets, human figure with intricate detailing. This also includes techniques like shading, highlighting, washing,

Step 5 Outlines the figures with a darker color and highlight the jewelery and other parts using metallic paints to give an appearance of richness.

Step 6 Burnishing is the last stage. The miniature art painting is laid face down on a hard surface, and an agate stone is used to stroke it firmly. This gives the painting a uniform texture.

To this date, Indian and Mughal Miniature paintings provide an interesting insight into the lifestyles of earlier centuries and continue to fascinate people.


Source by Rahul Chandani

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