Evolution of Painting

By Nehal Jain:

Paintings can be aforementioned as one of the earliest art forms by the man. The origins of painting initiate from as early as pre historic times. Since prehistoric times, the art of paintings have seen a drastic change. The progression of painting through the centuries has imbibed in itself the various influences varying across different regions, religions, languages, conditions, in short everything an artist experience in his lifetime, his milieu. After all, paintings are nothing but a pictorial representation of artist’s mind. It’s his way of expressing his innermost thoughts.

Oldest known paintings are claimed to be around 32,000 years old, found in France. Earliest Indian paintings are believed to be those of bhimbetka caves in Madhya Pradesh. The paintings of those times primarily decorated with animal and human figures, depicting their everyday life. Painting is a very old art in India as evident from various ancient texts. People used to paint their houses not merely for decoration but as a part of religious rituals. Verandahs and doorways were the places where this art was practiced in every other household. Why only archaic times, we still do the same in modern times, think rangoli during diwali celebrations. Years before, when paper was not invented, this art was started by the enthusiasts on palm leaves. Colors were mainly derived from mineral salts. As the time passed, painters started using brushes, made from squirrel’s tail and mastered their art.

Initially when they were practiced for religious purposes, Indian paintings have come a long way and epitomize various eras in India. They characterize various traditions and cultures, by which the artisans were influenced due to many countries which made India their colony. Indian painting was exposed to Greco-Roman as well as Iranian and Chinese influences. Cave paintings in different parts of India bear testimony to these influences and a continuous evolution of new idioms is evident. Indian paintings can be categorized into 2 main genres, murals and miniatures. Murals are the huge works executed on the walls and such like on caves of Ajanta and ellora while miniatures are paintings on perishable items like paper and cloth. The art of miniature painting reached its glory during the Mughal period. Akbar was one of the emperors who encouraged this art strongly. Influence of Persian and Islamic styles is evident during this period. During the colonial era, western influences started to make an impact on Indian paintings. Some artists developed a style that used Western ideas of composition, perspective and realism to illustrate Indian themes. By the time of independence, many schools started providing access to modern techniques, but most artists used these techniques to depict Indian themes. They started getting recognition initially among Indian diaspora but gradually in other audiences too. Major boost came with liberalization of economy in 1990’s when various artists started bringing in varied styles of work.

And here we are. Today, art connoisseurs are ready to pay next to anything for these artworks. Paintings from Indian artists have fetched sums of more than 16 crores a painting. We don’t even bat an eyelid when we hear of paintings getting sold for millions of dollars. Who could have thought that this art, which started just for creative and religious purposes, can turn into such a major business?

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