I wanted to publish this post on tamil new year day (apr 14) but better late than never.
Indian Paintings can be classified into two main types – 1. Murals 2. Miniatures. Murals are huge works of art done on the walls of solid structures, like in caves and temples. Miniature paintings as the name suggests are done on a smaller scale on perishable material such as paper and cloth.Tanjore painting belongs to the latter type.
This form of painting originated in a place called Tanjore (Thanjavoor),a district in TamilNadu and hence the name Tanjore painting. Its origin dates back to 16th century AD, which means its been in practice for more than 4 centuries. In those times (16th -18th century), mainly the Raju and the Naidu communities patronized this art form. Surface richness, vivid colours , rounded features of subjects and divine figures as central themes are some of the key features of tanjore paintings.
Invariably in most paintings the theme/central figure is always a divine figure from Hindu religion. Thus it could be said they were deeply rooted in tradition. Tanjore painting is very unique and stands out because of its uniques blend of art and crafts. The paintings are decorated with the precious stones. Adding these stones to the paintings gives the extra dimension of depth and hence the total picture gets a 3D effect. Earlier precious stones like diamonds, rubies etc..were used to adorn the paintings, now semiprecious and artificial stones are being used.
If drawing is one part and decorating with stones is another part, final touch is given by framing the pictures. The frames are genrally made of teak wood and they come in two types.
1.Plain wood frame
2. Chettinad style framing ( this is more labour intensive with a lot of attention to detail for the ornamental designs.
Making a Tanjore painting is a very elaborate and intensive process. Please see the references listed for those interested.
Here is a tanjore painting done by my friend,Lakshmi. The central figure is Lord Krishna. A closer look at the picture will tell you how art and craft is intertwined. The deity’s dress and his stage are decorated with red and green stones. The pillars on each side supporting the stage have elephants facing each other. This pillar is much similar to the pillars generally found in temples which have extensive ornate work.