Tanjore paintings have been adorning the walls of South Indian homes since decades. They belong to the Thanjavur, or Tanjore, a small town in Tamil Nadu and have been wooing the art lovers from the past two centuries. These paintings are deeply embedded in the tradition, but have incorporated many new innovations with time, though within specific limits. Apart from the beautiful figures, Thanjavur art is known for being embedded with semi-precious stones, pearls, glass pieces and gold, enhancing its beauty. The rich and vibrant colors of the paintings only seem to further add to their magnificence.
As far as the origin of Tanjore paintings is concerned, one can trace them back to somewhere around 1600 AD. The art form flourished in Thanjavur, anglicized as Tanjore, the capital city of the Chola dynasty. In fact, it is because of this reason that the paintings got the name of Tanjore paintings. Maratha princes, Nayaks of Vijaynagar dynasty, Rajus communities of Tanjore and Trichi and Naidus of Madurai, all continued to patronize the art form, right from the 16th to the 18th century. Though the dynasties changed with time, the popularity of the paintings only grew and continues to do so even today.
The motifs that are used in Thanjavur paintings mainly comprise of the figures of Gods and Goddesses. The main reason for this is that the time when this art form originated and flourished, beautiful temples were being built by the rulers of several dynasties. This had a major influence on the motifs that were used for the paintings. The figures depicted in Tanjore paintings have large and round faces and exude an aura of divinity, even when they are not those of Gods and Goddess. Since the past few years, motifs like proportioned figures, birds, flowers and animals are also being seen in these paintings.
Process of Creation
The process through which Tanjore paintings are made requires a lot of dedication on the part of the painter. In fact, the painting has to pass through a number of stages before it can be said to be fully complete. The first and foremost step requires the painter to prepare a board i.e. wooden plank, which serves as the base of the painting. Then, he takes an unbleached cloth and treats it with chalk powder and glue. This cloth is attached to the board and with this, the canvas takes shape. The next step comprises of tracing an appropriate figure on the board.
Thereafter, semi-precious stones and glass pieces are glued to the board, so as to form adornments, such as garlands and jewels, for the drawn figure. The rest of the figure is painted with a combination of chalk powder and gum Arabica, which creates a three dimensional effect. Then, gold foils are added to bring out the lavishness of the paintings. The second-last step comprises of making use of dyes, through which the paintings is imparted with its vibrant colors. Finally, a beautiful frame is selected for the painting and attached to it, further adding to its brilliance and splendor.