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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 have been around for a long time in the history of India. Indian paintings can be broadly classified as wall paintings and miniatures. Murals are huge works of art that are painted on the walls of solid structures such as the Ajanta Caves and the Kailashnath Temple.

Miniature paintings are made on very small scale on perishable materials such as paper and fabric. The Bengali Palas were the pioneers of miniature painting in India. The art of miniature painting reached its glory during the Mughal era. The tradition of miniature paintings was carried forward by the painters of the various schools of painting in Rajasthan like Bundi, Kishangarh, Jaipur, Marwar and Mewar. Ragamala paintings also belong to this school.

Indian miniature paintings are world famous for their beauty, delicacy and impeccable detail. The history of Indian miniature paintings dates back to the 6th-7th centuries AD. century, when Kashmiri miniatures first appeared. Miniature paintings have evolved over centuries, bearing the influence of other cultures. Miniature artists expressed themselves on paper, ivory panels, wood panels, leather, marble, fabric and walls.

Indian artists used multiple perspectives in their paintings unlike their European counterparts. The idea was to convey a reality that existed beyond a particular point of view. Special miniature paintings include Jain and Buddhist illustrated manuscripts, Mughal, Rajput and Deccan miniature flourishes. Themes used are from Indian epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvata Purana, Rasikpriya, Rasamanjiri and ragas of Indian classical music etc.

A miniature painting, as the name suggests, is an intricate, colorful illumination or painting, small in size, meticulously, with fine brushwork. The colors used in miniatures are usually derived from natural sources and materials. Some paintings use pure gold and other precious gems and stones to extract the colors to beautify the miniature paintings. India has a long and varied tradition of miniature paintings.

Subjects of miniature art paintings.

After 200 years of Mughal rule, the Rajput Maharajas became independent in the second half of the 18th century. These highly skilled artists were employed to replace their own artisans, leading to a kind of painting renaissance in North India. The whole of Rajasthan was divided into many princely states and patronized miniature painting. These states have developed a specific style. The paintings of this period have their own unique style, which was influenced by the environment – where appropriate, deserts, lakes, hills and valleys. They provide a colorful glimpse into history. paintings depicting hunting and court scenes, festivals, processions, animal and bird life, and scenes from Raagmala and Raaslila – the life story of Lord Krishna. The extravagance and prosperity of the court were also shown.

Mughal painting

Mughal painting is a particular style of Indian painting, usually limited to book illustrations and done in miniatures, that flourished during the Mughal Empire from the 16th to the 19th century. It was formed, developed and took shape during the 19th century. Mughal paintings were a unique blend of Indian, Persian and Islamic styles. As the Mughal kings wanted visual records of their deeds as hunters and conquerors, their artists accompanied them on military expeditions or state missions, or recorded their prowess as animal killers, or depicted them at the great dynastic ceremonies of marriages… Painters mostly painted court scenes, royal portraits, nature scenes and focused on landscapes.

It was Akbar (1556-1605) who began to encourage the Mughal artist. After consolidating his political power, he built a new capital at Fatehpur Sikri where he gathered artists from India and Persia. More than a hundred painters were employed, most of them Hindus from Gujarat, Gwalior and Kashmir. They worked under the guidance of the two Persian artists, Abdus Samad and Mir Sayyid Ali, but were encouraged and inspired by Akbar.

Afterwards, Jehangir encouraged artists to create portraits and durbar scenes. His most talented portrait painters were Abul Hasan and Bishan Das. Shah Jahan (1627-1658) continued to patronize painting. Some of the famous artists of the era were Mohammad Faqirullah Khan, Mir Hashim, Muhammad Nadir, Bichitr, Chitarman, Anupchhatar, Manohar and Honhar. Aurangzeb did not like fine arts. Lacking a patron, artists migrated to Hyderabad in the Deccan and the Hindu states of Rajasthan in search of new patrons.

Rajput painting

The Rajput school of miniature painting drew its inspiration from the Krishna legends. The focus was more on the relationship between men and women, and the paintings depicted their emotions, love and passion aesthetically. The love scenes of Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha are the finest examples of paintings. Rajput painting, a style of Indian painting, developed and flourished in the 18th century in the royal courts of Rajputana, India. Each Rajput kingdom developed a distinct style, but with certain common features.

Rajput paintings depict a wide range of subjects, epic events such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the life of Krishna, beautiful landscapes and people. Miniatures were the preferred medium of Rajput painting, but several manuscripts also contain Rajput paintings, and even paintings were made on the walls of palaces, inner chambers of forts, havelis, especially the Shekhawat havelis. The colors extracted from individual minerals were obtained by processing plant sources, seashells and even precious stones, and gold and silver were used. Creating the desired colors was a lengthy process, sometimes taking weeks. The brushes used were very good.

Jodhpur School: The hand-made paintings focus on love scenes, followed by other artist figures. The Jodhpur School of Miniature paintings depict love scenes of the lovers, Dhola and Maru, on the back of a camel. There are hunting scenes with elephants and horses. The main colors used in this style of painting are gold and stone.

Jaipur School:

Gods and goddesses, kings and durbars are very attractively painted on the handmade papers of the artists.

Kangra School:

Real gold, stone and water colors using squirrel hair brushes. The glittering effect is reinforced with silver and gold colors.

Mewar School of Painting:

These represent hunting scenes painted on fabric and handmade paper using stone colors

Technique of miniature paintings:

A high degree of expertise is required as it requires the use of a very fine brush. The features must be absolutely perfect as they must be complex, colorful and rational impressions. The colors used are mainly derived from minerals, vegetables and precious stones, indigo, shell, gold and silver, which are produced by a careful process. In miniature art, paper painting is done on old or new handmade very high quality paper depicting animals, birds, butterflies, Mughal themes and many more. These can also be placed as wall decorations. Made from pure marble slabs, the miniature paintings featuring mythology, birds, turbans, women and Mughal themes can be used as table tops or wall frames. Miniature painting is a skillful and talented endeavor of Indian artisans. It received great recognition and reception from all over the world.

Step 1: Choose a design

Step 2: First draw the pattern you want on the tracing paper and copy the pattern to the cloth/paper with carbon sheet

Step 3 Now paint the human figures first. Then animals and other components of the picture. The background is painted last. This allows you to set the base color of each area

Step 4 This step requires fine brushes to decorate floors, carpets and human figures with intricate detail. This includes techniques such as shading, highlighting, washing,

Step 5 Outline the figures with a darker color and highlight the jewelry and other parts with metallic paints to make it look richer.

Step 6 Polishing is the final stage. The miniature art painting is laid face down on a hard surface and firmly smoothed with an agate stone. This gives a uniform texture to the painting.

To this day, Indian and Mughal miniature paintings provide an interesting insight into the lifestyle of earlier centuries and continue to fascinate people.

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