Generally speaking, painting is a form of art which uses pigments (colors) that are applied on any surface such as a cloth, a canvas, rocks, walls, etc.
Painting serves as a tool for visual communication by bringing in elements such as texture, depth, contrast, value, gesture, background. It can be both realistic or suggestive.
What initially started in the caves during the pre-historic age kept getting better over time with the use of various methods and techniques. Paintings are now a part and parcel of life.
The history of paintings
The earliest known paintings were discovered in the Chauvet and Lascaux caves of France. They house a number of representations of animals such as Bisons, Horses, Lions, Deers, Rhinos, etc and also some species that are now extinct.
Another peculiar variety of paintings found in these caves are those of hand marks. They are believed to be made by blowing dried pigments around the hand to create an impression.
Although the exact reason for making such marks and impressions is not known, the art of that time is considered more of a communication tool rather than for aesthetic purposes.
Evolution of paintings
Paintings of the early period usually portrayed two-dimensional images. It wasn’t until the time of Renaissance that painters started showing depth and dimension using techniques such as perspective, shades, and shadows.
It was after this that artists started experimenting with this style of art giving birth to different styles of painting such as Realism, Mannerism, Impressionism, and Romanticism.
Each style has its own distinctive characteristics. Take for example Impressionism where a visual is suggested using plain brush strokes. As the name says, this style of painting only suggests an impression of the actual visual. The famous painter Claude Monet was an Impressionist.
Painting in India
Painting as an art form not only evolved in styles but also in methods, medium, and character.
As in the case of France, the earliest paintings in India were also found in caves such as Bimbetka.
However, owing to regional diversity, Indian painting also took varied forms such as Pattachitra, Kerala Mural, Madhubani, Kalamkari, Mandala, Warli, and so on.
A form of painting prominent in the regions of Odisha and West Bengal, Pattachitra art is usually made on a piece of cloth using natural pigments.
Painters, traditionally known as Chitrakaras first prepare a gum made out of tamarind seeds. They use this gum and white stone powder to coat a fine piece of cloth in order to create a workable surface.
An outline is then drawn in which colors are filled. The traditional method uses pigments made using natural elements. For example, white was made out of conch shells.
Pattachitra is predominantly icon painting using Lord Jagannath as its common subject as shown below.
Bright hues are used for painting these pieces of cloth.
Find the painting here.
Another striking feature of most Pattachitra paintings, as seen below, is that they follow a principle of floral borders.
Kerala Mural painting is another very prominent form of traditional Indian art.
Unlike Pattachitra, the surface for a Kerala Murals is not limited to a piece of cloth as it explores walls, stones, and canvases.
Traditional mural paintings were however done on walls for which the wall was first thoroughly primed by coating it with layers of limestone mixture.
An outline of the image is first drawn followed by giving it dimensions. Colors are then filled after which a black outline is given to each and every detail to accentuate the painting. The final step consists of coating with a pine resin for a finished and glossy look.
Kerala Murals make use of bright hues with orange dominating the palette as in the below picture.
With changing times, artists have started using various other media such as a canvas and cloth. Below is a painting for Lord Krishna done on canvas and paper.
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