The intense urge for artistic expression in the Western Himalayas from the 17th century onwards produced miniatures as well as wall paintings. However, while miniatures were produced here from the second half of the 17th century onwards, known wall paintings cannot be dated earlier than the last quarter of the 18th century. But it is quite possible that, as in some other parts of India, a painting tradition may have existed in the Western Himalayas earlier than the datable remains. The fact that the artists were well acquainted with the technique of preparing plaster for wall paintings seems to lend support to this view. Unfortunately, not a single painting before this period exists. It is difficult to say, at this stage, whether the miniature or the mural style of painting was older in the Himalayas. What can, however, be surmised is that both these styles deeply influenced each other.
Rajasthan has carved a niche for itself in the arena of painting. Rajasthan’s fascinating miniature paintings are renowned the world over
The medieval miniature paintings vividly render hills, valleys, gardens, palaces, court scenes, deserts and religious processions. Available on silk, paper and marble.
All over Rajasthan, one can see brightly coloured murals. These murals, done in the folk art style, depict processions, battles and folk deities and have been rendered in miniature style.
The Pichwais are cloth paintings. These Pichwais depicting Lord Krishna, as Shrinathji in different moods with Radha and Gopis. Painted in dark rich hues..
The themes of the miniature are generally inspired by paintings commissioned centuries ago by Indian Emperors. Initially, the sketch is prepared by the artist on a smooth surface of a paper in light blue or reddish-brown ink. This primary sketch is drawn in soft lines suggesting only the outlines of the figures. These are later corrected and bold, accurate, hard lines are drawn. A thin coat of white pigment is applied to obliterate the incorrect lines.
Once the master sketch is drawn, it is copied or pounced (traced). Traditionally tracing was done with a piece of transparent deer skin which was placed on top of the drawing, the outlines of which were then pierced.
The deer skin has since been replaced by tracing paper. The stencil thus prepared, it is then placed over a fresh paper and black pigment is passed through the pinholes leaving soft outlines which are later reinforced by brush.
The pigment are first blended and laid flat on the paper. No consideration is made of tonality, instead contrasting colors are used. Tendency to represent the minutest details, principles of maximum visibility and love for ornamentation were possible only when the colors are laid flat. The floors, carpets, arms and armour, utensils etc., are depicted with profuse embellishment. The draperies however are left comparatively plain. The three dimensional effect is achieved by two methods of shading : the original color is spread on the surface, then darker colors are applied ; or the shading pigment is gradually mixed with the original pigment while still wet. The ground colors are not necessarily light but are lighter than those to be applied in subsequent fillings. Human figures are painted first, animal figures next, and the background is colored last of all.
After coloring and shading, the outlines of the object, as delineated in the primary sketch, are reconfirmed by a darker tone and the figures given a well finished form.
Gold highlights are the last step before burnishing. The burnishing process involves laying the miniature face down on a hard, smooth surface and gently and firmly stroking it with a polished piece of agate stone. Burnishing provides protective hardening and gives an overall unity of texture to the paintings.
Calligraphy and other stages:
After the painter has finished, the picture is passed on to other artists for trimming or to the 'wasligar' for mounting. Then beautiful hashiyas (borders) are mad and the calligrapher or 'naqshanavis' is asked to write part of the text or inscribe the name of the artist at the lower part.