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You are here: Home srcm Tanjore Painting Posted by SRCM for india4you.
Tanjore Painting

Tanjore paintings signify paintings created using a style and technique, which originated in a place called Thanjavur (now called Tanjore), in Tamilnadu, a southern state of India. In the 17th Century, during the Nayaks and Marathas rule the telugu speaking Rajus and Naidus community moved from the Rayalseema region to Tamilnadu. The Tanjavur painting artists originally belonged to these communities and under the patronage of the Nayaks and Marathas, this art flourished for almost 2 centuries. The artists, painted essentially on the walls of temples and palaces and the themes were mostly inspired by epics, puranas and Mythology The paintings had very distinct traditions that were faithfully followed by the artists. So sacred was the art that the master craftsmen choose to be anonymous, their inspiration being devotion. Paintings were also done on materials like wood, glass, mica. Most of the paintings were Hindu deities & saints
By virtue of its distinct characteristics, Thanjavur paintings (Tanjore Paintings) have been given a GI (Geographical Indication) status.
  • Composition always has a main figure, a deity taking the central position and is typically housed within an enclosure of a palace or a temple mandap. Consorts, devotees, the Gods vahana ( vehicle ) and other aspects or figures associated with the God, often surround the central figure.

  • The painting is stylized the figures being depicted in a robust manner, rounded body with well defined outlines. It is typical to show all the ten figures and toes of the deity. The main deity is always shown face front, and no attempt is made to give a feel of movement – almost like the composition has captured and frozen a moment in time

  • Gold leaves and sparkling stones are used to highlight the jewelry and ornate dresses. Relief work gives the painting a three dimensional effect enhancing the Ornamental look of the painting

  • The painting are very bright ,colorful and breathtakingly beautiful. Colors used are predominantly red, green, deep blue. For outlines, dark brown is usually used.The main figures in the composition are either in white toned with red or yellow giving a pink or yellow color to the body, green or blue. Backgrounds are again dark green, deep blue. The depicture of nature, flora, animals, birds clouds in the sky are very static and stylized. Garlands are rendered in a very decorative manner. White dots are beautifully placed along the edge of curtains, drapes, jewelry, and other ornaments giving a very pearly and lustrous effect to the compositions. The over all impact with the glittering stones, gold, and painting colors especially in a dimly lit room is that of a glowing presence.

  • The rendering of the face especially the eyes determine the true quality of the Tanjore painting. The glowing aura of divinity in the face touches the very soul of the onlooker filling him with a sense of positive vibration, calmness and an object of reverence
"Netronmeelanam" or opening of the eyes is as per tradition done as the last step. An auspicious moment is chosen and the artists chants the following Mrityunjaya Japa

"Idam chitam mayaa praneetham sada bhootva sthapithavyam, sannidhyam kuru me Deva netronmeelana puniya kala" which means "This picture created by me should remain forever, Come before me Oh Lord! and bless the opening of the eyes".
Tanjore Paintings rendered in the traditional manner are filled with purity and divinity. They are auspicious art pieces that can be preserved for lifetime.They are often given a prominent position in the houses and even placed in Puja alters as images of worship.

Shiva, Krishna, Dasavataram, Ram Durbar, Ramapattabishekam, Meenakshi Kalyanam, Murugan Valli Devayani, Lakshmi are some of the very sought after compositions in Tanjore paintings, rendition of each artist giving it an uniqueness. In current times presiding deities of various famous temples are also being depicted
Making of a Tanjore Painting
  The base for Tanjore paintings is plywood. It has to be ensured that the surface of the plywood is very smooth.
A fine cotton cloth is stretched over the plywood and using water soluble adhesives stuck over the ply. The traditional glue is made with boiled tamarind seeds fermented for a day. A thick liquid coating of chalk powder and Arabic gum is applied over the plywood. Two to three coatings are applied ensuring that every coat is thoroughly dried, before the next coating is applied. An addition of yellow oxide and a bit of copper sulphate would protect the painting from insects.

The final surface is smoothened with emery sheet.
Tracing of Image Outlines

The compositions for Tanjore Paintings are very traditional and many of them passed on from one generation to the next. These compositions are first done as pencil drawings – master drawings which have the entire line drawing of the final composition. The Main figures, details of the intricate designs on the pillars, mandaps, jewel, clothing and the placement of the stones are all outlined in these pencil drawings

Traced copy is made of these compositions and the outlines are perforated. It is the perforated tracing paper that is placed on the board and either charcoal powder is dusted or a cloth dipped in blue dye and turpentine is rubbed over the perforated sheet, resulting in the drawings being transferred to the boards.
  The perforated tracing on the board can be further defined so the final drawing is clearly visible. Any additional details required can also be added at this time.
  Sticking the Stones( Ancient times it was semi precious Stones )

Embedding very good quality stones into the compositions is a very distinct feature of Tanjore paintings. Gems of varied shapes sizes and hues are used in areas like the pillars, arches, thrones, dresses etc. Artists use their discretion in placing these stones which contribute a great extent to the beauty of Tanjore Paintings, making stone studded jewels of them.
Below are some of the stone shapes and colors traditionally used in Tanjore paintings.
  Relief Work

The stones are placed in the positions desired and using a thick paste called “maku” or gesso embedded into the board. Even over areas that are to be covered with gold the gesso is poured. On drying it ensures the stones are securely fixed to the board. The artists would gently uncover the gems by removing the muku poured over the stones with a wet soft cotton cloth

The gesso is also used to convert the drawing into a relief which is to be later covered with gold. It is applied in various consistencies of thickness based on the design requirement eg mandaps, brocade, pillars etc. Semi thick consistencies are for application of larger areas and bigger sizes brushes are used for it. For very fine work, thin brushes and maku that allows a free flow like that of an ink pen is used.

After completion of relief and stone works this is how the composition would look – the flat lines of the drawing now have a third dimension.

  Gold Foil

24 carat gold leaves are another distinctive material used in Tanjore paintings. Once the embossing has thoroughly dried up the gold oils are pressed over the relief works and an impression of the design is taken . The foils are then cut into shape and stuck with Arabic glue over the respective relief. Fine cloth is used to press down the foil well over the relief, and it has to be ensured that bare hands do not touch the foil as it will reduce the luster of the gold. The white gesso should be covered with gold wherever visible.
  The composition after completion of the gold leaves application would look like this. The stone areas which are now hidden with the gold needs to be uncovered with the use of suitable tools – this requires immense patience as does many other aspects of Tanjore painting. As every stone is unraveled the beautiful jewel now enhanced with pure gold starts taking its final form. The shine and glean of the gold leaves used by the Tanjore style painting lasts forever.

In the past natural dyes were made and used for coloring .However the current trend is to use good quality poster paints which enhance the sharpness and provide better shades and contrast. The base color is first applied and dried. It is over the base color that the shades.

For outlines, dark brown is usually used. Backgrounds could be a deep blue, red or dark green, red being the favored color. The main figures in the composition are either in white toned with red or yellow giving a pink or yellow color to the body, green or blue.
  Painting in progress

When painting the figures, artists commence with the body, hands, feet, face, clothes and finally the background. It is the rendering of the face that determines the true quality of a traditionally rendered Tanjore painting, the opening of the eye being the final stage.

Patterns and designs for the dresses, jewelry, curtains are rendered even over the gold foil areas adding to the ornamental look.

A completed piece is always set in  traditionally  ornate Chettinad frame made in teak wood.

Posted by SRCM for india4you.
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