Primitive rock paintings are found in Bhimbetka, Mirzapur and Panchmarhi. This period was followed by painted pottery of the indus valley civilisation. Representation of myths and stories on cloth is called "Lepya Chitra" and "Lekhya chitra" is line drawings and sketches.
Real beginning of the art of painting was the Gupta Age.
Visakadutta wrote his famous book named "Mudrarakshasa" which mentioned paintings and their forms.
The text also mentioned the Six principle limbs or Shadanga of paintings:
|Principle Limb of painting||Meaning|
|Rupabheda||Variety of form|
|Sadrisyan||Portrayal of likeliness of the subject|
|Bhava||Creation of lustre and gleam with colors|
|Varnikabhanga||Mixing of colors to resemble effects of modelling|
|Pramanam||Proportion of the object or subject|
|Lavanyayoganam||Immersions of emotion|
Petroglyphs is known as painting on rock and rock engravings.
The first set of prehistoric paintings were discovered at Bimbetaka caves in Madhya Pradesh. These were discovered by V.S.Wakankar. These paintings were called as "Zoo rock Shelter" as they depicted animals on the rocks.
The three major phases of prehistoric paintings were :
Upper paleolithic period : Paintings were on rock caves. Linear shapes and geometric figures of humans were drawn. Humans were stick like figures. Different minerals were used for different colors.
Mesolithic period : Paintings of this period were of smaller size than paleolithic period. They had more themes and showed activities like collective hunting, group activities like gathering shrubs and farming. Paintings were mainly in red color.
Chalcolithic period : Here use of green and yellow color increased. Men riding horses and battle scenes were painted.
The works on the walls of a solid structure are referred to as "Murals".
In India, mural paintings are known for their size, they cannot be painted on paper and need a large structures such as walls of caves and temples.
Some of the best examples of murals are Ajanta and Ellora caves.
Ajanta Caves paintings
One of the oldest surviving murals is the Ajanta caves (4th century AD) Ajanta consists of 29 caves which are situated in the shape of a horse shoe. The caves are famous for the exquisite murals which took close to four centuries to complete under the Maurya Age, Sunga Age and the Gupta Age.
The walls of the caves have both murals and fresco paintings (paintings on wet plaster). They use tempera style i.e. use of pigments.
The paintings portray human values and social fabric along with styles, costumes and ornaments. Humans and animals are shown with emotional faces. Graceful poses of humans and animals adorn the walls of the caves.
The medium of paintings is the vegetable and mineral dyes. The outline of the figure is red with brown, black or deep red color also.
Ellora Caves paintings
Murals in Ellora are found in five caves. The paintings are related to hindu, buddhist and jain traditions.
Most of the murals are limited to the Kailasha temple.
Murals were done in two phases: In the first phase, paintings were done during the carvings of the caves, while the second phase ones were done during several centuries later.
Bagh Caves Paintings
An extension to the Ajanta school of art. The murals are resembling Ajanta caves painting style in decoration and execution. Paintings depict buddhist and jataka style.
Main difference is that cave murals have figures which are tightly modeled, have a stronger outline and are more earthly and human.
Annamalai cave paintings
Situated in vellore, tamil nadu.
Paintings are of jainism religion.
Natural caves became jain temples. Unbaked mud structures are located inside the caves which act as a resting place for jain saints.
Sittanavasal cave paintings
Famous rock cut caves found in Tamil nadu.
The murals resemble the Ajanta and bagh style paintings closely. The murals are not just on the walls but also on the ceilings and pillars.
Ravan chhaya rock shelter
Located in Odisa.
Paintings on a rock shelter are in the shape of a half opened umbrella.
Located in vijaynagar, karnataka. These paintings are found on the walls of the temple at Lepakshi.
These are secular paintings.
These paintings should not be larger than 25 inches. The subject of the painting should not be painted in more than 1/6th of the actual size.
Indian miniature paintings have typical features such as Blue skin color of divine beings, color of hair on women is black. Skin of human images in Mughal paintings is fair and that of Rajasthani style is darker. Human figurines are usually painted from the side view with bulging eyes, pointed nose and slim waist.
The paintings are often painted on perishable materials like paper, palm leaves and cloth.
Pala school of art
This school was flourishing during 750-1150 AD. The paintings were generally found on palm leaves and as a part of manuscripts.
Buddhists monks used them as their religion practiced non violence against all religions.
These paintings have sinous lines and subdued tones. the single lonely figure is represented in them.
Vajrayana school of buddhism patronised this art.
Apabramasa school of art - Gujarat and Mewar regions
These paintings were themed on jainism. They brought in the concept of Gita Govinda and secular love into these paintings.
The humans had fish shaped faces and bulging eyes. Women had enlarged hips and breasts.
The earlier paintings were on palm leaves and the later ones were on paper. Color had symbolic meaning in these paintings.
Famous examples are Kalpasutra and Kalakachya Katha.
The coming of Islam into the sub-continent was a harbinger of change. It created a cultural revolution however the traditional art forms did not disappear but had an influence on the new art form that emerged.
Miniature Art during Delhi Sultanate
The paintings of this period brought persian form of art with traditional Indian style.
Paintings of these style were of the form of illustrated manuscripts.
Sultanate school of art also led to emergence of three new forms of art in Medieval India - Mughal, Rajput and Deccan.
Miniature Art during Mughal Era
Paintings were with distinctive persian antecedents. The focus of these paintings was not god or saints but gloryfying the ruler.
They showed hunting, historical and court related scenes. The mughal paintings brought together persian naturalistic style and used brilliant colors.
They also brought in the style called "foresightening". Under this objects were drawn in a way that they look closer and smaller than they really were.
Early Mughal Painters
Babur did not have much time for painting as he had to face continuous conflict. He is said to have commissioned an artist named Bizhad to make illustrations of the Mughal family tree.
Humayun was a great patron of the arts and came to the throne at a young age. When he returned from his exile to Persia and reclaimed the Mughal throne from Suri dynasty he brought two artists from Iran. They brought Persian influence into Mughal paintings.
Miniature paintings during Akbars reign
He established an entire department for painting and scribing his documents. He developed karkhanas and workshops where artists developed their own styles.
Defining features of paintings during Akbars period were the use of 3 dimensional figures and foresightening technique.
Artists were more focused on depicting court life instead of life of the masses.
Furthermore, they also encouraged use of calligraphy.
Miniature paintings during Jahangir's reign
Mughal paintings reached their zenith during the reign of Jahangir. he preferred paintings of flora and fauna. He emphasized on bringing naturalism to portrait paintings. Jahangir himself was a great artist.
A unique trend that developed during this period was the use of decorated margins that were as beautiful as the main painting itself.
He was influenced by European influence in his court and tred to created an artificial-ness in he paintings.
He eschewed the use of charcoal to draw and encouraged the artists to draw and sketch using a pencil. He also ordered a heightened use of gold and silver in the paintings.