Tanjore Paintings – The Stamp of Uniqueness from the Deep South

The splendid Paintings of the young Krishna or Ganesha that adorn many a wall – be it homes or offices – is something that I have grown upto and always wondered about the unique style that can be easily identified.

Thanjavur or Tanjore painting art form is something that not only brings in nostalgia but clearly communicates that there is a significant history to this brilliant art form!  And surely the god forms and now multiple motifs that are painted has a rich history and a process unique to itself.

Tanjore painting is an art form with a deep religious and cultural significance. It has its origin way back in the 16th century in Thanjavur, the temple town of Tamil Nadu. Once adorning the walls of royal palaces and temples, Tanjore paintings now lend a unique touch to contemporary decor. Known worldwide as one of India's greatest traditional art forms, Tanjore painting is a sought-after collectible. It even has the recognition of Geographical Indication, certifying its conformance to traditional methods, its qualities and reputation.

Tanjore paintings exhibit a unique blend of art and craft - matchless art for creating life-like pictures and skillful craft for the intricate overlaying with gold foil, stones and glass pieces together culminating in a masterpiece.

Made meticulously from natural methods, these magnificent art pieces are the result of a painstakingly long process with many steps -- sketching, stone insertion, relief work for 3D effect, gold foil overlaying, colouring, highlighting and finally framing.

Characterised by brilliant colour schemes highlighted by the gold foil and glittering stones and fixed in ornate Chettinad frames, Tanjore paintings are truly a splendid visual delight.
These paintings mainly depict mythological themes, narrating the legends of historical figures and deities, the stories of Lord Krishna being the most popular. Lately, Jain and other religious and also non-religious subjects are being depicted. Tanjore paintings have a unique look where the subjects are prominently covered in the painting; also the colours used are distinctive like vivid red, deep green, blue and chalk white and furthered with relief work for a 3D effect.

This unique art form has an interesting history to it and who would thing that Telugu speaking artists under the Nayakas would further the tradition started during the rule of Cholas and then given patronage by the Marathas.     

In its original glory we would see a Tanjore painting set on Jack Fruit wood with natural colours  and pure gold foils and decorated with either precious or semi-precious stones. However, today, we do see the use of either teak wood or ply wood and synthetic colours that give a sharper appearance but the use of gold foils and precious/semi-precious stones are used irrespective. 

While we have artists in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu in Thanjavur and Madurai but there are some great artists who have undergone extensive training and continuing this glorious tradition in other parts of the country. 
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