Tanjore: The Traditional Painting of South India

Tanjore or Thanjavur painting is a classical South Indian painting that was first found in the town of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu way back in the 1600 AD. It was the period when the Nayaks of Thanjavur encouraged art which was mainly the classical forms of dance and music alongside literature and paintings as well. The paintings would generally be of the religious objects in their temples and it is distinguished by its popular gold coating.

The Tanjore painting is characterized by simple ionic compositions, rich colors, glittering gold foils that are laid on gesso work and glass inlay beads on precious and semi-precious gemstones. If you take a close look at the Thanjavur paintings, you will find out that it has an influence of the Maratha, Deccan, Vijayanagar and European styles of painting embedded in it. 

The most common subject of these paintings is essentially the Hindu gods and goddesses along with saints from Hindu Puranas and other religious sculptures. Sometimes, you can also find paintings of other caste subjects such as Jain, Muslim, Sikh, and others. These are panel paintings that are accepted on wooden planks and are subjected as colorful souvenirs in modern times. We will discuss more on it in this article below.

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The History and Traditional value of Tanjore Paintings

The history of Tanjore painting is unique and deliverable. It houses the Chola wall paintings from the 11th century and paintings from the Nayak period that dates back to the 16th century. Many painters migrated after the fall of the Vijayanagar empire and Hampi during the battle of Talikota and become dependent on the support of the empire. 

Among the migrated painters, some migrated to the state of Thanjavur where they worked under the Thanjavur Nayaks. Subsequently, the Thanjavur Nayaks were defeated by the Marathas and thereby the painters were ruled by them. Thereon, the artists absorbed the influences of the local patronage and developed their individual tastes when it came to the Thanjavur style of painting.

The styles and techniques involved in making the traditional Tanjore paintings

Initially the famous Painting of South India, the Thanjavur painting is made depending upon the occasion and choice of the patron. They were made in various sizes and mainly of the Maratha rulers and other noble courtiers. The work was executed on a wooden canvas and then framed. The palettes of the artists include colors like turquoise blue, chalk white, lush green, vivid reds, etc. They also used gold foil and glass beads.

Read More: Facts About Madhubani Paintings

In addition to the wooden canvas, these paintings were also made on glass, walls, paper, wooden panel, mica and other exotic media like ivory. The Tanjore paintings are generally pasted on a plank of wood using Arabic gum. Then, the canvas is coated with french chalk (or powdered limestone) and a binding medium is used to make it a solid piece of art and then it is dried. The artists also used gold leaves and other gems on the pillars, thrones and other places where the painting is to be crafted before putting the color as the final touch.

The status of Tanjore Paintings in today’s times

As Thanjavur painting is a famous form of Painting of Tamil Nadu, it continues to be made by the artists even today but not with the same intensity as before. With the passing of time, the artists have brought up several variations in the form of painting and thus, the aesthetic and traditional touch is slowly fading in today’s time according to the cost, choice of the artists and ease of availability of the products. 

Jack and tea wood has been replaced by plywood and synthetic colors are preferred over the natural and mineral colors. While it is good to see the modern improvisation of the artists in this form of painting, the missing touch of aesthetics and values have made it a little disturbing trend. You can find these paintings in the local stores and also in the online stores that sell these kinds of art and craft items.

For those who are fond of the Traditional Indian Paintings, Tanjore paintings are one of its kind to take interest in it. The rich cultural heritage that it carries within itself is a strong reason why people from around the world love to own a piece of the painting to keep as a souvenir in their houses and workplaces. The kind of vibe it has, everybody would like to keep it preserved in the years to come, fearing the fact that it might lose its charm in modern times. 

But if we go back to the time when it was first introduced, the Tanjore paintings have not lost its value and traditional effectiveness to date and so we can expect it to hold on to the same charm even in the years to come. If you are a fan of the traditional paintings you must surely collect Tanjore paintings to be part of your home decor.

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