Today, we have prepared a very unique art of a region that is completely different from the art we have introduced so far. It is a painting from the 18th and 19th centuries in Udaipur, northern India.These paintings on paper were unveiled as a special exhibition at the Sackler Gallery, National Asian Art Museum, Washington. It is said that once they are exhibited this time for preservation, they will be difficult to come out again for several years.
I visited two weeks before the end of the exhibition, and I can’t see it now, but I would like to introduce it at least as a picture because it is a special work. I also don’t know much about Indian art, but I will try to convey the story I learned through the curator tour as much as possible. So let’s get started.
praise the new capital
The above work is a new style of painting that is different from those previously painted in the Udaipur region of northern India. What is different is, firstly, a city that actually existsthe second is that Landscapes that are not character-centeredis that.
Previously, this area was said to have been mostly paintings depicting religious stories or portraits like Da Vinci’s work that we looked at last week. However, in the picture above, the people are drawn very small, and the landscape is clearly visible like a map.
The picture above depicts the palace built by the king over the lake in great detail. The structure of the palace and the types of trees were realistically expressed as if it were a record.
If you zoom in on the painting, you can see people moving in the palace as well as fish swimming in the water.
Then why did the royalty of Udaipur region start ordering realistic paintings from this time? Because this was the new capital of the kingdom.
Udaipur became the capital in the 16th century. It rained more erratically than the old capital, but the mountains were useful in repelling invasions.
To overcome adverse weather, the people of the kingdom built lakes and reservoirs to store as much water as possible. And a white castle is built on the lake created at this time. The palace in the picture is this castle.
Through the efforts of the king and local people, the area became an oasis in arid northwest India, where it could be farmed and flooded with water. From the 17th to the 18th centuries, people here began to document the beauty of the affluent capital.
gray is the color of joy
Since it was an arid region, when it rained was very important. In that respect, the most interesting thing about my exhibited works is that ‘gray’ is not a gloomy darkness, but a color that expresses very joyful and joyful emotions.
The painting above depicts the king riding a horse across a river during the rainy season (monsoon). The sky was overcast because of the rain, and the dry areas were filled with black water.
However, this scene is not uncomfortable or dangerous, but contains a very satisfying and heartwarming sight.
If you look closely like this, you can see the detailed depiction of even the falling rain. It is said that paintings praising and blessing the king were drawn during the rainy season when it rained exceptionally abundantly.
It also gave me an opportunity to think about how differently color can be accepted depending on culture and region. Another example is that Western culture accepts the color yellow as fear or warning.
share feelings and build solidarity
But at this time, there is another reason why the royal family of Udaipur drew pictures of reality. There are two main reasons for this: aesthetic reasons and political reasons.
The first aesthetic reason has to do with the history of Indian art. Indian philosophers have traditionally viewed art as something that evokes ’emotions and moods’ rather than conveying facts.
In other words, the painting captures the atmosphere shared by the people there by more realistically reflecting the topography and color of a specific region rather than a religious story or person.
Not only the atmosphere, but also the strong connection that people in the area have with each other and the land is called ‘bhava’ in India. Art was doing what made people love the new capital.
Also, Indian philosophers said that when a discerning person sees a good work, he can feel ‘baba’ and, furthermore, taste ‘rasa’, the ultimate aesthetic experience. The experience of being completely immersed in the work and touching the essence is ‘Lasa’. India’s elite and intellectuals found it worthwhile to experience this through art.
The second reason is the political change in India at the time. In the 18th century, northern India was beginning to struggle with the Mughal Empire (1527-1857) as it weakened. Local governments like Udaipur built cities and moved the arts to secure new allies and the loyalty of nobles.
Depicted in the above picture is the scene of the ‘Holi Festival’, where kings and nobles enjoy sprinkling colorful pigments. Having a good time together like this must have created a bond. But the festivities don’t end here.
It is said that the court painter recorded this festival with a picture, and when the picture was completed, the attendees gathered in the gallery inside the palace. Then the king and nobles enjoyed the painting in one place.
Looking at the picture containing the happy memories once again, the attendees reflect on their emotions. And he wrote those memories and recorded them on the back of the painting.
This kind of look is actually similar to the daily life of modern people. Because we also leave happy memories with pictures and ‘proof shots’ and chew the cud. Of course, at this time the painting was very expensive.
It was a time to feel the power of the image that connects the king and the people around him.
※ ‘A Spoon of Inspiration’ is a newsletter that introduces news from the art world in general, focusing on various examples of creativity that can be seen in art. It is published every Friday morning at 7:00.
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