Thanjavur Painting (Tanjore Painting – an alternate name) is one of the many indigenous art forms for which India is noted. What is special about the paintings? This style of paintings mainly consist of themes are mostly mythological and depicts Hindu gods and goddesses. The most favorite theme of the painters includes the figures of Lord Krishna and his consorts in various poses and depicting various stages of his life. Presiding deities of various famous temples are also being depicted in the paintings. The present day painters are experimenting Gods and Goddesses of other popular religions: say Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Guru Nanak, Islamic prophets as well as birds, animals, building structures and other subjects.
Why people attach more importance to this art form? The characteristics of the Thanjavur paintings are their the relief work to provide three dimensional effect, brilliant color schemes, decorative jewellery with stones and cut glasses and its larger-than-life figures. The pictures are of various sizes, ranging from huge works spanning whole walls to small miniatures no longer than 6-inch square. The figures in these paintings are large and the faces are round and divine. Mostly the dimensions are unique and inspiring sacred atmosphere.
Whether the paintings are exclusively for puja purposes? No! Thanjavur paintings, with their rich heritage, can decorate the walls of your drawing room in your residence, arcades in major hotels, marriage halls, auditoriums, and lobbies in Corporate Offices resulting in an envious decor.
This school of paintings originated in Thanjavur (Located about 300 Km from Chennai) during the reign of the Marathas in the 16th century. It existed from 17th to 19th Century, and had a limited output. Today, this tradition is kept alive by a few hundred dedicated artists mostly based in Tamil Nadu, India. You know that this sacred art is live even today and followed widely by the people in Southern Tamil Nadu for the past two centuries!
You will appreciate if you understand how the paintings are prepared and how much care is taken at every stage of their development. Paintings were done on materials like wood, glass, mica, and exotic media such as ivory, murals and manuscripts. But most of the paintings are usually made on canvasses. The Canvas for a Thanjavur painting is usually a plank of wood (early paintings with Jackfruit tree, now it is plywood) over which a layer of cloth is pasted with Arabic gum. The cloth is then evenly coated with a paste of limestone and a binding medium and let to dry.
Over this canvas the artist then draws a detailed sketch of the painting on the canvas. A paste, made of limestone and a binding medium, is used to create 3D effect in embellishing and ornamenting the theme using a brush.
Gold leaves and gems of varied hues are used in selected areas like pillars, arches, thrones, dresses, etc. The shine and glean of the gold leaves used by the Thanjavur style paintings lasts forever. Finally, colors are applied on the sketch. In the past, artists used natural colors like vegetable dyes, whereas the present day artists use chemical paints which enhance the sharpness and provide better shade contrasts.
The early paintings were embedded with real Diamonds, Rubies and other precious stones. Later, use of semi-precious and artificial stones gained popularity.
You know the portrayals of the figures in the paintings are breathtakingly brilliant. Almost all the figures have round bodies and almond-shaped eyes, which is unique to Thanjavur Painting. The traditional Thanjavur artists have a flair for ornamenting the figures with jewellery and ornate dresses. Thanjavur paintings are notable for their adornment in the form of glass pieces embedded in parts of them.
The frames (teak wood) used for Thanjavur paintings are of two types.
1. The wooden type wherein plain type of wood is used.
2. The Chettinad type which are more ornamental with designs. Instead of breakable glass, "Transparent acrylic sheets" are used to avoid breakage during transit.
The paintings are renowned worldwide for their beauty and make place in the international handicraft business. You can also gift these to your near and dear ones for any occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays.