Rajasthani Art also referred to as Rajput Art, was initially limited to the miniature style of painting. This style and many more styles in Rajasthani Art became popular in Rajasthan, a western Indian state between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. This miniature style of art is thought to have evolved from manuscript illustrations.
In the last decades of the 16th Century, Rajasthani schools of oil paintings began to evolve and develop distinctive styles combining indigenous as well as foreign influences (Persian, Mughal, Chinese, European) into unique styles.
The Rajasthani oil paintings, though were influenced by the Mughal Art during its later years of development and the two almost became one, yet the Rajasthani style of oil painting retained certain identities – the use of the colors, the abstract conception of the human figure and the ornamental treatment of the landscape.
The Rajasthani Artworks largely depict scenes from the two famous epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The scenes from the latter are built around lord Krishna and his favorite companion Radha. There are also paintings that illustrate Ragamallas – the musical modes centered around Lord Krishna. During the latter part of its period, the artists made paintings that covered court portraits as well as court and hunting scenes.
This form of art as discussed above initially evolved as miniature paintings meant to be kept in the boxes and albums. Miniatures in manuscripts or single sheets to be kept in albums were the preferred medium of Rajput painting, but many paintings were done on the walls of palaces, inner chambers of the forts, havelis, particularly, the Havelis of Shekhawati, the forts and palaces built by Shekhawat Rajputs
The techniques used are very similar to the Mughal Art though the materials used are much coarser that also show up on the rajasthani art paintings. The colors were extracted from certain minerals, plant sources, conch shells, and were even derived by processing precious stones. Gold and silver were used. The preparation of desired colors was a lengthy process, sometimes taking weeks. Brushes used were very fine. The art in Rajasthani mixed with the local traditions and techniques
The Rajput Art in Rajasthan evolved into four major schools – each identified with a specific geographic and formerly princely region of the state. They may look similar at the first glance but one is likely to find the subtle difference as one further analyzes each type. Also, the major schools got further divided into many smaller sub-schools as the local regional influence grew. However, it is hard to say when exactly they started because the region had suffered numerous invasions and battles.
The Rajasthani Art is categorized by the princely region, where it evolved. Broadly speaking there are four schools of Rajasthani Art as described below
- Dhundar: Jaipur is the major city in Dhundar and the smaller regions around it are included in this region. This includes Alwar and Shekhawati, an area of Northern Rajasthan, well known, the world over the world for Havelis with colorful frescoes. In short the Dhundar School of Oil Paintings covers Amber, Jaipur, Shekhawati and Uniara styles of paintings.
- Mewar centers around Udaipur and is the southern central region of Rajasthan. TheMewar School of Oil Painting is the oldest and most dominant. Given that the region is so rich in art, many sub-schools evolved including Chavand, Nathdwara and Devgarh. More popular among these is Nathdwara. This place has a temple that has driven the culture in the city – most artworks depict various poses and the symbolism of the deities. The Mewar school comprises of Chavand, Nathdwara, Devgarh, Udaipur and Sawar styles of painting
- Marwar covers major art hubs like Jodhpur, Kishangarh, Bikaner and Jaisalmer, which in fact have their own art styles but are considered as a part of the larger Marwar School of Oil Painting. Marwar in fact is the largest region of Rajasthan, covering the most of the Thar desert. The paintings from this school reflect the times of those days, when the royalty was supreme, hunting was their favorite pastime and were often engaged in battles to keep their supremacy. The Marwar school of Oil Painting comprises the Kishangarh, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Pali and Ghanerao styles
Bani Thani is from the Kishangarh School of Paintings and has been labeled as India’s “Mona Lisa”. Bani Thani was painted by an artist by the name of Nihâl Chand. The subject of the painting was a singer and poet in Kishangarh during the time of king Savant Singh (1748–1764)
- Hadoti artists very imaginatively fused their local art with the Mughal art to create artworks, which were very different from the traditional Rajasthani Art. Hadoti region is the South Eastern corner of Rajasthan, centered mainly around the cities of Jhalwar, Bundi and Kota. The Hadoti School of Oil Painting covers the Kota, Bundi and Jhalawar styles
The Kangra and Kullu schools of art are the offshoots of Rajasthani Art. Though the entire Rajputana was affected by the attack of Mughals but Mewar was one state that could resist the Mughal might and witnessed the flourishing of the pure rajasthani art paintings.
Chic Wall (chicwall.in) runs a studio that is just dedicated to Rajasthani Oil Paintings, creating artworks that can be identified with different schools of painting in Rajasthan. It is now in fact re-inventing Rajasthani Art, recreating the artworks of the princely times with more contemporary colors.