The Chitrkathi paintings of Paithan, Maharashtra, depicting the events of Ramvijay (Victory of Rama); ornate paintings on glass in the Tanjaur style, ‘Pata’ or paintings on cloth from Rajasthan; Kalamkari art on cloth; miniatures in the Mughal style; miniatures on Ragmala; the intricate and detailed Chaitra-Gauri Pata (painted on cloth) from Maharashtra-these, and countless other such works on leather, paper and parchment of the 17th to 19th Centuries A.D. displayed in the Museum forms one of the beautiful sections.
 

Paithan Painting
(Maharashtra)
19th Cent. A.D.

As the paintings of the West is an art of "mass" the art of the East is an art of "line" (Indian painting by Percy Brown, Hamam Publication, New Delhi 1982, P-7). The Western artist conceives his composition in contiguous planes of light and shade and colour. He obtains his effect by 'paly of surface', by the blending of one form into another, so that decision gives place to suggestion. In Occidental painting, there is an absence of definite circumscribing lines, any demarcation being felt rather than seen. On the other hand, the beauty of Oriental painting lies in the interpretation of form by means of a clear-cut definition, regular and decided; in other words, the Eastern painter expresses form through a convention - the convention of pure line-and in the manipulation and the quality of this line the Oriental artist is supreme. Western painting, like Western music, is communal, it is produced with the intention of giving pleasure to a number of people gathered together. Indian painting, with the important exception of the Buddhist frescos, is individual -miniature painting that can only be enjoyed by one or two persons at a time. In its music, in its religious ritual, India is largely individualistic.


Indian painting may be broadly divided into the three great religious divisions -Buddhist, Hindu and Mohammedan.

The Hindu painting has come to be referred to as Rajput, on account of its association with Rajputana and the Hill Rajputs of the Punjab; while the Mohammedan art is referred to as Moghul, as it owed its existence to the encouragement it received from that dynasty. Buddhist and Rajput painting was symbolic in signifying the spiritual life of India; the dominant note of both was religion, Moghul painting was frankly secular, and in character realistic and eclectic.

Buddhist painting
The aim of the Buddhist artist was to visualize the ideals of his creed, to illustrate by pictorial parables all the beautiful sentiments of the Buddhist religion. These were designed to appeal to the higher feelings of the spectator, so that, sustained by their supreme charm, the littleness of his own, personality vanishes, and he becomes exalted and absorbed. The Buddhist frescos no doubt attained this object, and by their sheer artistry elevated the individual into the actual realms of the higher beings, thus bringing him to the feet of the Master himself.

Rajput painting
while aspiring towards the same high ideals, covered a larger field. Apart from its delineation of the great religious dramas of Hinduism, in its domestic character, it reflected the beliefs and customs of the common people, thus producing an artistic folklore of unusual interest. Its chief aim, however, was to present the innumerably graphic aspects of their religion to the people in a portable and popular manner, literally, for household use. This resulted in a school of miniature painting, which is an outstanding feature of the pictorial art of India.




Moghul painting

The painting of the Moghul School exhibits the same technical traits as the Rajput art, but is distinguished by a widely different intention. It strives after no spiritual conceptions, but embodies a genuine statement of fact. Some of the illustrative work deals with the mythical, but the Moghul miniatures are in the main, material. Religion played no part in the artistic productions of this school. It excelled in portraiture and in this field it subconsciously went beyond the representation of superficial facts, often recording the innermost character of the sitter in a very spontaneous mariner.
There is sufficient evidence, however, to enable us to visualise the early Buddhist painter as an artist priest, learned in his religion as he was in his art. His system of work was probably that which prevails in Buddhist Tibet at the present time. When it has been decided that a certain building is to be decorated, or a piece of sculpture executed, artists are sent for from the leading religious institutions, and these are retained in the monastery as part of the sacerdotal establishment until the commission is completed. For the time being they become members of the local brotherhood, and are lodged and fed as part of the priestly staff. The sculptor belonged to the same group as the painter, often one individual being master of both crafts. When the work was finished, these artists either returned to the central monastic institutions, or traveled to another religious edifice which required their artistic services. Living in this way on the spot, and forming for the time a part of. the community personally concerned in the building being decorated, their interest would be real one and their work would accordingly represent a genuine feeling of reverence for the edifice with which they were so intimately associated


Leather Puttet
Hiranyakashipu
Balkrishna
(Glass Painting)
Kangra Painting
(Karnataka)
18th Cent. A.D
.
(South India)
19th Cent. A.D.
(Rajasthan)
18th Cent. A.D.


On the other hand, the Rajput painter was one of the people, a member of that guild of craftsmen which formed an essential portion of the Indian communal fabric since Buddhist times. With the metal-worker, the stone-carver, and the weaver, he was one of the village system, in ordinary life the decorator of their homes, or the embellisher of the palace of the local prince. When not employed in these capacities he was preparing pictures of religious subject, so characteristic of the later Rajput Schools. A simple and unsophisticated craftsman, he is best described by applying the words of Vasari with regard to Andrea Del Castango's first instructor; "One of those country painters who work at a small price, who was painting the tabernacle of a pleasant, a matter naturally of no great moment."

The Moghul painter, living in a different atmosphere, was another type. He formed one of the retinue of the court, and in a sense was a courtier. In the direct employment of a king or noble, he carried on his work according to the commands of his patron. He was probably not a paid servant, but on the production of a good piece of painting he was given a substantial present.


Indian painting is an anonymous art. This specially applies to the Budd hist and Rajput work, while only a small number of the Moghul pictures bear any signature. A few names of artists have been handed down, but, except for the brief records of the Moghul painters in the Ain-I-Akbari, there are few details available concerning these craftsmen. In view of the position that women have occupied in India generally, it is a notable fact that the first Indian painter mentioned by name was a woman. Chitralekha, a word which literally means a picture, was the heroine of an incident in the Dwarka Lila, a work of the Epic Age, and probably dating from many centuries before the Christian' era. This artist had a genius for portraiture and on this gift the point of the story, which is related elsewhere, depends. After this no painter is mentioned by name, until Tara Nath, a seventeenth century historian, refers to a small group of artists mainly associated with the work of the Buddhist School. The principal information gathered from this writer is that these individuals were versatile workmen, equally good in both sculpture and painting. Chinese records mention several early Buddhist artists by name, who had emigrated from India, with accounts of their work, but from these it is evident that they had become absorbed in the country of their exile, and can hardly be regarded as belonging to the sphere of Indian painting. Of the Rajput artists, except a few very modem families in the Punjab Hill States, no names have been handed down; but the Ain-I-Akbari produces a series of cameo like descriptions of the Moghul painter, which throw some light on this craftsman as an individual. One interesting fact becomes evident in studying these brief accounts of the painters of Akbar's time, and that is that art rises superior to caste. Several of the most prominent Hindu artists retained at the Moghul court were drawn from very lowly sources, the famous Daswanth, and two painters of the name of Kesu, all belonging to the Kahar, or palanquin bearer caste.


Indian painting is classified by Indian connoisseurs, partly geographically, but mainly by the terms of its technique. Each school or local development is identified by its kalam, a word translated literally as "pen," but meaning "brush". The different styles of painting are therefore referred- to as of the Delhi, Deccani, or Kangra Kalam etc., according to the character of the brush-work. Only an expert or hereditary painter can be sure of the distinctions between pictures of different kalams, as some of these are very fine; but it is not difficult to define a broad classification of the more important styles. In this connection the classical frescos of the Buddhist are not alluded to, the system of kalams being used only with regard to the miniature painting of the Rajputs and Moghuls. Rajput painting is divided into two main kalams, the Jaipur and the Kangra; Moghul painting has many kalams, as this art with local variations was practiced in many centres.
In this way we have the Delhi, Lucknow, Deccani, Irani, Kashmiri, Patna, as well as a Moghul type of the Jaipur kalam.