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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


Perspective in Pahari Painting

Perspective is an important part of any composition, as it gives an illusion of depth, a concept that makes the viewer that the painting goes deeper than the surface on which it has been painted.
When painting a picture, the artist observes a re-representation of reality.
This re-representation of reality the artist observes according to his or her own orientation and aesthetic conception.
The orientation and aesthetic conception differs from age to age and from place to place.
When appreciating any art work we must keep the concept of "time frame" in mind.
We must also understand that the concept of aesthetic appeal differed according to place and time.
When appreciating "Pahari art schools" this vital fact has to be considered, as it is important when taking in to account any other art school or even absolutely contemporary forms of art.
The artists often painted in traditional schools or styles of art without breaking the accepted compositional format.
The accepted compositional formats had set ways of indicating depth.
The painters of Pahari art schools through their acceptance of the set compositional forms, depicted the aspect of perspective in a way that suited their decorative styles on the miniature formats or on larges areas of wall paintings.
Multiple dimension perspective was used in Pahari schools of art. In the same composition, visual, isometric and two dimensional or flat perspectives were used.
The use of several types of perspective to illustrate different objects in the same composition was queer indeed, but it was very much suitable for this type of painting and the over all effect is of a pleasant harmony.
Since each object, whether, a tree, flower, a pot, architecture, animals or humans received attention with the depiction of minute details in these miniatures, the perspective of separate objects often varied.
The carpet on which the prince or the queen sat, may be shown in be in isometric perspective while the background may be showing some form of visual perspective.
The isometric perspective of the carpet allowed the artist to depict the design of the carpet in maximum detail while elementary visual perspective of the background gave some idea of recedence.
Some times the architectural portions shown in the foreground had some sort of visual perspective. I say "some sort" as the individual portion of architecture may have a perspective effect which was not really visual perspective as it would be wrong to assume that the depiction would fall in the mathematics of visual perspective, but some recedence was attempted at times.
It is quite clear that the artists of Pahari schools of art did not know the mathematics of visual perspective as we see in western art and in the art influenced by western art.
These artists were more or less content with the decorative presentations of details in their paintings. This set mind form has been passed on from generation to generation in this repetitive form of art.
Any new experimentation with perspectives in Pahari schools of art is rare indeed as the artists rarely wanted to break away from the time tested path.
The easiest way to depict distant object was to make them smaller. Since the hills were the back ground often, full smaller figures could be depicted in detail at successive levels.
The stylized depiction of the horizon and the mountains did not leave much for space for experimentation or innovation in the aspect of the depiction of landscape in these schools of art.
A passion for details often obliterated or pushed back other aspects of aesthetics in Pahari schools of art.
The two dimentional or flat perspective was widely used as it gave a large area for detail. In Basholi school of Pahari painting this two dimentional perspective has been very widely used.
The figures in the foreground were most often in two dimentional or flat forms. in later forms some times elimentary shading effects can be perceived and I think this is due to same exposure to European art the artists of Pahari schools of art may have had at the end of nineteenth or the beginning of twentieth century.
Yet, the artists of Pahari schools of art cared little about the light and shadow effect. Shadows of trees human beings or objects are elementary or even nonexistent.
The play of highlight and depth, that create the three dimentional effect on faces hands and on the background landscapes was little known or unknown to the artists of Pahari schools of art. The artists of yore who innovated the basic compositions that were followed by later artists and "copy masters", faced several challenge’s when placing so many details on a small format. As the area for the application of paint was very limited, and so many details had to be included in the small area, the division of positive and negative spaces had to be done in a very careful manner.
Since the old compositional forms were successful the later artists rarely if ever could experiment with the compositions beyond the level of regrouping figures.
I have seen no major break through in Pahari art forms from the traditional setups.
For this reason, I doubt whether the opening of training centers for Pahari paintings at some museums in Himachal Pradesh will ever revive this art in the innovative aspect, and the repetitive copy work style is likely to limit the creative aspect from nil to basic stage only.
As long as just money making remains the main objective of those who learn Pahari art today, I can not expect any thing better in this aspect.
The creative strength of the artists who worked and innovated in the olden days in Pahari art is not likely to be seen again yet the older compositions have left a treasure house for future generations to marvel at.
Yet, I would say that within the stylistic boundaries the artists of yore of Pahari schools of art created pieces of art that have their own place in the cultural history of mankind.

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.
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