About the Collection
The history of India is coloured with varied forms of art, from different parts of the country. One of the most well-known and loved artforms is miniature painting, whose origins can be traced back to the 9th-10th centuries. The fascinating thing about this exquisite form of painting, is the various styles that evolved over the years, depending on the geographical location of the painters, and the influences and patronage they had. The most well-known styles today are from the modern state of Rajasthan and the mountainous regions of North India, where the common term used to classify this style of art was ‘Pahari’ painting.
Rajasthan had numerous different styles or Schools of Painting, each distinct in its characteristics. Also called Rajput painting, it evolved and flourished in the royal courts of Rajputana in northern India, mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries. Artists trained in the tradition of the Mughal miniature were dispersed from the imperial Mughal court, after their workshops were run down in the reign of Aurangzeb, who ceased to patronize Mughal painting. They developed new styles drawing from local traditions of painting, especially those illustrating the Hindu religious epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana. In late 16th century, Rajput art schools began to develop their own distinctive styles, combining indigenous as well as foreign influences such as Persian, Mughal, Chinese and European.
Rajasthani painting consists of various principal schools that have within them several artistic styles and sub-styles. These in turn can be traced to the various princely states that patronised these artists. Some of the most well-known schools are the Mewar School (including sub-schools such as Chavand, Nathdwara, Devgarh, Udaipur and Sawar), the Marwar School (including sub-schools such as Kishangarh, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Pali and Ghanerao), the Hadoti School (including sub-schools such as Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar), and the Dhundhar School (including sub-schools such as Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati and Uniara styles of painting).
To create miniature paintings, colours were extracted from minerals, plant sources, conch shells, and even precious stones. The preparation of colours was a lengthy process, sometimes taking two weeks. The brushes used were extremely fine. A common concept found throughout Rajput or Rajasthani miniature artworks is the purposeful manipulation of space. In particular, the inclusion of fuller spaces is meant to emphasize the lack of boundaries and inseparability of characters and landscapes. In this way, the individuality of physical characters is almost rejected, allowing both the depicted backgrounds and human figures to be equally expressive.
At the close of the 17th century, a distinct style of painting began developing in Northern India’s hill states, where the rulers were chieftains like the Rajasthani rulers. Pahari painting, which literally means painting from the mountainous regions (pahar means mountain in Hindi), is an umbrella term used for paintings originating in the Himalayan hill kingdoms of North India, during the 17th to 19th centuries, notably Basohli, Mankot, Nurpur, Chamba, Kangra, Guler, Mandi, and Garhwal. The region stretched from Jammu to Garhwal in sub-Himalayan India, through Himachal Pradesh. The earliest Pahari School of miniature painting is Basohli. Each school created variations within the genre - from the bold and intense Basohli paintings to the delicate and lyrical Kangra paintings, and the poetic and cinematic representations in Garhwali Paintings. Our curated range of miniature paintings from the different schools are a celebration of this exquisite artform, and an attempt to hold on to India’s glorious artistic past.
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