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Friday, 24 January 2014

Tanjore Painting - An Analysis- Part I

There's more to the Tanjore style of painting than mug work, sticking stones and gold foil. This series is about understanding the design elements that make this style of painting truly unique.

While the style flourished in Tanjore under the Nayak and the Maratha rulers of Tanjore, it is not clear when and where it actually originated. The first mention of this style dates back to the 16th century - a tempestuous period in the history of Tanjore. Researchers are inclined to conclude that Tanjore was not the birth place of the style as two other distinct but related styles of painting exist elsewhere: Mysore painting and Deccani Painting. Did this travel to Tanjore along with the conquering Vijayanagar army? I am sure records with the information exists somewhere; probably in the manuscripts preserved in  Saraswati Mahal.

I am using 3 paintings and a picture to illustrate my thoughts about this. I am no authority on Tanjore painting. But I am a good observer and I love analysing old and traditional paintings.

Here's a full shot of a painting aged 75+ or maybe older. It is said in my family that my grandfather bought it before my dad and uncle were born. I would like to use this as my standard for comparing the other paintings. My reasons for this are simple.  At the time when this painting was executed, the working knowledge of this style was limited to the traditional artists who lived in the area and took pride in their work. Since travelling was expensive and time consuming, I presume there was no fusion of styles. Diversification seemed to be the norm  rather than blending it with other styles as is evident from the Mysore style of painting. Commercialization of art was probably at its infancy.


Here's another painting done around 2006.
This is my own first attempt to learn this style under the guidance of a master.
And finally a part of a calender my grandmother had.  As far as I know it is nearly 35 years old. It was badly damaged. I've attempted to put the pieces together. I've laminated the pieces to prevent further damage. 

In the next post, we'll examine the different aspects of the basic drawing and painting; features like eyes, ears, eyebrows, the shape of the chin, fingers, finger and toe nails, the shape of the flowers and the peacock feather, the water wash... you get the idea.

Further Reading -
 Royal Art and Ethnic Decor
About Tanjore Paintings

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