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East Indian Paintings

East India has been long proclaimed as a hotbed for various Art movements –from the ancient Patta paintings to the Modern works of Jamini Roy and Nanda Lal Bose, Eastern India has seen the development of an eclectic array of art forms.

Art, it seems floats in the air of Eastern India.

Patta Chitra of Orissa

Patta Chitra of Orissa is an ancient art form, which was practiced in Orissa. This art form was an offshoot of written communication on palm leaves. In the pre paper days messages and letters were etched out on palm leaves and dispatched. Slowly the text began to be embellished with illustrations. Theses illustrations became an art form itself.

Mythological themes dominate most pattachitras; scenes from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata are lovingly depicted. Local legends and folklore too find their way into the paintings. Radha and Krishna, Durga, Ganesha and Saraswati are the most commonly used Gods and Goddesses.

Patua Paintings of West Bengal

Patua Paintings of West Bengal are sheets of paper sewn together and painted upon. These scrolls narrate mythological stories and in recent times they have incorporated other themes to cater to the changing taste of their customers. In recent times they have dealt with historical events, ecological disasters such as storms and floods, and commentary on social issues.

They were once painted on cloth, but are now executed on cheap handmade paper. The scrolls are almost always unmounted. The size of the scroll paintings varies, they can be as short as four feet, and as long as fifty feet, however the average length of a Pata is around fifteen feet. A Pata is divided into vertical compartments, again not always of equal length, and each compartment narrates a different episode of the story.

Patas are painted by Patuas of West Bengal who are interesting anomalies. They are an endogamous caste whose religion is difficult to determine, for they follow both Hindu and Muslim customs. Muslim rituals mark all their important ceremonies but they paint Hindu stories in their scrolls and also observe a number of Hindu Festivals.

The Patuas visit villages and go from house to house with their bag of scrolls. They narrate stories while unrolling the scrolls; in return of his services he is paid in cash or kind.

Most Patuas happen to be men and there are few, if any, women Patuas.

Kalighat Paintings

Kalighat Painting is an indigenous school of painting, which has its roots in the cultural upheavals of 19th century colonial Bengal. Its name comes from the place where the artists originally set up their practice - around the Kalighat temple in Calcutta. Their medium was watercolour on mill-made paper and they were primarily created by the scroll painters-cum-potters who migrated from rural Bengal to the city of Calcutta in the nineteenth century. These paintings are well known for their tongue-in-cheek depiction of Bengali Babudom or the decadent lifestyle of the upper class Bengalis.

The Bengal Renaissance

The 19 th century was seen as a kind of cultural awakening for Bengal. They believe that under the impact of British rule the Bengali intellect learned to raise questions about life and beliefs. The new outlook is said to have affected contemporary life very materially. The various protest movements, formation of societies and associations, religious reform movements, coming of new styles in Bengali literature, political consciousness, and very interestingly art too. This very movement gave birth to Painters like Abanindranath Tagore who went on to establish what is known as the Bengal School of Art.

Bengal School of Art

The Bengal School of art can be seen as an avant garde movement against the constricting styles of British art Schools. This school supported by the artist Abanindranath Tagore, a nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore painted a number of works influenced by Mughal art, a style that he and Havel believed to be expressive of India's distinct spirutual qualities, as opposed to the "materialism" of the West.

Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore was one of the first Indian painters to experiment with form and colors and his innovative use of lines redefined Indian Paintings to a great extent. He was prolific painter, producing over 2500 of these within a decade. He used his paintings to express his darker side. Dark and mysterious they have an overwhelming feel of puzzlement and awe with the universe. His paintings were haunted by dark ghostly figures from the primordial world.

Paintings of Nandalal Bose

Nanda Lal Bose belonged to a tradition of painters who were known for their patriotic beliefs. His works were conscious of the burden of building and shaping the mind of a nation. The values and tradition of a nation found voice in his canvases.

He was also one of the few prominent artists to project theirs works as a backlash against the colonialism. But it will be unfair to term him an “antagonist”, for his works were more of an attempt to nourish India's future sensibilities with an awareness of her own heritage and that of the world around her.

Paintings of Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy is seen as one of the most important painters of Modern Bengal.Born in the culturally rich district of Bankura (West Bengal, India) in 1887, Jamini Roy had the privilege of being exposed to Bengali Folk Art Tradition from a very young age. The unmistakable influence of the Folk Tradition is to be found in his work throughout his career. In fact one can safely say that it was a hallmark of his work.

His awe-inspiring body of work has made him one of the most influential Modern Indian Painters.

Art continues to thrive in Modern day Bengal and Orissa. Painters like Bikash Bhattacharya and Jatin Das have ensured that the artistic tradition they have inherited, continues to burn bright.

One may point out that that Bengal and Orissa do not comprise the entire East India, and one wouldn't be wrong to do so. However to comprehensively cover the paintings from the verdant North Eastern Hills one will need to have more than a page.

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