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Prabal Pramanik's Academy of Arts
Bhamlada, Punjab -145 022, India
Mobile : 09417735631/09417170998

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ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2


Some important characteristics of
Pahari Paintings as I perceive

In this article I have mentioned in concise form observations that I have elaborated in later chapters.
I think that it is important to understand the co-relation of different characteristics of North Indian miniature painting termed "Pahari art" to make a proper aesthetic appreciation of this form of art.
Pahari paintings are basically decorative oriental art. There are certain stylistic differences between different sub-schools of Pahari paintings.
The stylistic differences are subtle, but in the case of certain sub-schools, the stylistic difference is quite prominent.
Pahari paintings are greatly stylized. This implies that the characteristics of stylized traditional art schools are applicable to Pahari art schools too.
The stylization implies that aesthetically sound compositional setups and technical methods have been handed down from generation to generation helping to preserve those original compositions through the repetitive process.
Yet we have to keep in mind that limitations of creative expression is a common factor in stylized forms of repetitive art and more repetitive the art form is, greater are the constraints.
The same painting compositions were often repeated over the years and is still done so. Most of the artists even today, copy from pictures in published books.
This repetitive process often inhibits imagination and creates stylistic bondage. Stylistic bondage results in the lack of innovative experimentation in wider scale. Without free flowing experimentation, and with the tendency to accept the limitations of stylized dictums, Pahari schools of art, like other traditional art schools in similar situations, are often overloaded with mannerisms causing stagnation of styles.
The repetitive character of Pahari paintings have largely confined these paintings to a certain periodical setup, that is evident in the architecture, costumes and even subjects.
Since the old compositions have an established market, it is common for artists of modern times who practice Pahari paintings to continue the repetition to create copies that would sell.
This importance of the commercial aspect of Pahari art often restricts modern day artists from creative experimentation.
Just some change in the background, or replacing of figures in the set composition does not connote original creative presentation.
Often the artists who generally today are just copying from plates in published books and magazines, mix two or more pictures in the attempt to create new compositions but this again is just "forced’ way of rendering a picture that should be free flowing creative form to enable it to be called original.
Without the originality in form, expression and moods, no school of art advances in creative evolution and growth.
The subject matter of Pahari paintings is figure based. Although Pahari art flourished at places of great natural beauty, the artists were not inspired to paint the landscapes just for the sake of depicting the beauty of nature.
It seems that in the senario of Indian art, the idea of landscpe painting was introduced by the European artists.
In traditional Indian art, that includes Pahari paintings, nature serves as a backdrop for human emotions and subtle changes of moods were often expressed through nature acting as the backdrop.
Even when paintings on seasons are made, (Baramasya paintings) nature is depicted only in relation to human beings.
In such paintings, the change of human behaviour according to seasons is a primary method of indicating seasonal change.
Again and again I found that in Pahari paintings, nature has served to emphasize the mood of the main figures (the Nayaka and the Nayika) in the painting.
The figures are often sharply contrasting yet they blend in to create an artistic harmony.
At later stages, in rare pictures, obviously by exceptionaly talented artists, subtel use of highlights and depth can be perceived.
The depiction of shadows in Pahari paintings in rare indeed. This feature is common in several schools of traditional Indian paintings.
I have noted that agewise, each school or "Shaili" of Pahari painting went through subtle variations in the early developmental stages.
The compositional strength of the early masters contrasts sharply with the copy work of the copymasters of modern times.
A passion for details is evident in Pahari schools of art. Details of each portion of the composition, whether it is a leaf, a tree, a flower or an architectural piece or a portion of the clothing or jewellery, each subject has been painted in painstaking stylistic decorative manner.
I find the decorative quality of the details interesting and I noted, that the emphasis is much more on different individual objects or parts of the subject of the picture than on the overall impression of the composition.
Western style water colours convey their aesthetic charm greatly through the sweeping overall impressions and in this aspect such styles contrast sharply with traditional Pahari paintings.
The co-relation of nature and humans on the emotional scale is an important feature of Pahari art and this gives Pahari art a special place in art history.
Even spiritual journeys are given a material form through the depiction of "Abhisara" in different moods and forms.
Actually the "Abisara" of the "Nayika" often connote different phases of the journey of the "Kundalini" through the passage of "Susumna" to meet the ultimate at "Sahasara" Krishnavhisara, Divavisara, Shuklavisara, Sandhyavisara are all phases of spiritual journey.
The nature according to the mood needed for that particular phase of spiritual journey have been painted in the suitable time and space frame.
The figuires are often sharply contrasting yet blend in to create an artistic harmoney.
It is to be perceived that agewise each school or "Shaili" of Pahari art went through certain changes. In some cases the changes were subtle and in other instances the changes were more perceptible.
A passion for details is evident in Pahari schools of art. Details of each portion of the composition, whether it is a leaf, a tree, a flower, or an architectural piece or a portion of the clothing or jewellery, have been painted in painstaking stylistic decorative manner.
The decorative quality of the details is interesting to note, and the emphasis is much more on the different objects or part of the subject of the picture than on the overall impression the composition conveys to the viewer.
The pictures are generally presented with borders that are sometimes painted with decorative motifs in pleasing forms.
The linear strengh of the borders and the painstaking process of painting them is noteworthy. The steadiness of the brush work when painting the border is important in Pahari art.
The borders generally compliment the decorative nature of pahari schools of art. Often the borders were done in golden paint.
Borders are found in many other traditional shools of miniature paintings in India and in other countries too.
Mughal paintings, miniature paintings from Rajasthan and many other paintings have borders and in many traditional schools the borders "bound" the composition in to a single piece of art-work.

Prabal Pramanik
(from the published book "My views on Pahari paintings")
ISBN No. 978-93-81200-03-2

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Prabal Pramanik



The articles presented here are from the published book "My views on Pahari paintings" by Prabal Pramanik published by M/s Orient Book Company. These articles are original. These articles are not compilations made from other articles and no chapter or portion of these articles have been taken from any other published work.
These articles are from my own published work, with ISBN number, and these are copyright reserved.
Anyone found to print or publish or use in any form in the internet or in print media these articles or portions from these articles without the prior written permission of the author and publisher will be liable to pay damages to the author and publisher.
The pictures displayed here are by artists who have passed away more than fifty years ago. According to international copyright act, art works and written matter become public domain, fifty years after the death of the artist and the writer.
This website has been created for the benefit of art lovers and for those who want to appreciate Pahari art paintings

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