The late 16th and early 17th centuries saw the beginning of the Rajput paintings in the region of Rajasthan and the Hill States of Punjab. Most of these regions were ruled by the feudatories of Mughals hence significant Mughal influence is evident in these paintings. Besides Mughal traditions, the influence of Chaurapanchasika group style that predates Mughal paintings is also conspicuous in the paintings.
Nevertheless, certain aspects unique only to the Rajput School gradually developed which distinguished these paintings from other styles.
Rajput Paintings in Rajasthan
Amber and Jaipur
Amber in Rajasthan was one of the first kingdoms to become the Vassal of Akbar but noticeably its painting style remained conventional like that of Malwa. However, the court portraitures were executed in markedly Mughal style. In 1728, Sawai Jai Singh shifted the capital from Amber to Jaipur. He and his successors patronized many artists. The paintings clearly showed inheritance from the Mughal source but the bold compositions and use of abstractions were distinctly regional.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries numerous works of art were produced that depicted episodes from the life of Krishna. The names of the artists that doted the royal courts are evident in the court records and inscriptions on paintings. Ragamala and devotional subjects remained the popular themes of the paintings in the 19th century and found patronage outside Jaipur court too.
Painting traditions in Bikaner followed a close Mughal tradition. Muslim artists settled here brought with them the highly refined and delicate Mughal style. Deccani paintings also had a marked influence on the Bikaner paintings. During the late 18th century paintings in Bikaner started showing conservative Rajput styles. It embraced the flatness and abstractions of the Rajasthani style. Though, Bikaner style was rich in documentation it never acquired the ostentation of the later Jodhpur portraits.
The painting traditions in the region of Kota and Bundi located in southeastern Rajasthan are collectively known as Hadauti paintings.
One of the earliest examples of the Bundi Paintings is the Chunar Ragamala painted in 1561. The painting showed marked influence of the Mughal style. The development of the Bundi School in the early 17th century is unclear but isolated examples of creative brilliance reveal the ongoing development of Bundi style. Wall paintings from the reign of Rao Ratan Singh (1607-31) are significant examples of Bundi Style.
Under Rao Chattar Sal (1631-58) and Bhao Singh (1658-81) Bundi paintings emphasized on court scenes. Themes from the life of nobles, lovers, and ladies were extensively used in the paintings. Bhagavata Purana illustrations of 1640 are other notable works of art from this genre.
Though Bundi School had close association with the Mughal style yet it was never fundamental to the evolution and growth of Bundi paintings.
From the second half of the 17th century three significant paintings; one, dated 1662, of a couple watching pigeons, second, from 1682, of a couple in a pavilion, third, dated 1689, of lovers viewing a crescent moon show the artistic merit of this school. These paintings employed bold, bright colors of Rajasthani style however the delicacy of the Mughal style was also not abandoned.
A Mughal Decree in 1624-25 led to the carving of Kota state from the kingdom of Bundi. Kota paintings were spontaneous and calligraphic in execution and emphasized on double lidded eye and marked shading. It is likely that artists traveled freely from state to state and hence the influence of each other styles is conspicuous in the paintings.
During the reign of Jagat Singh (1658-84) portraitures were produced that employed vibrant colors and bold lines. Under the reign of Arjun Singh ( 1720-23), a style emerged where a male was depicted with a long hooked nose.
In the 18th century, Kota became popular for its superb hunting scenes, Ragamalas, and portraits that often bore high documentary value.
In the 19th century during the reign of Ram Singh II (1827-66), the Kota paintings underwent revival. He commissioned number of paintings depicting scenes of worship, hunting, darbar and processions.
The Hadauti paintings are often regarded as one of the highest quality of paintings in the Rajput style.
Kishangarh in central Rajasthan, developed a distinct style of painting, which was a result of fusion between the Mughal tradition and regional style. Many Mughal painters, in the early 18th century from Delhi had settled in the region and found patronage under ruler Raj Singh (1706-48). One of the chief painters was Bhavani Das who developed a style that bloomed during the reign of Raja Savant Singh (1748-64). Raja Sawant Singh was a devotional poet and an accomplished musician and artist. The mystical love of Krishna and Radha was beautifully portrayed in the paintings. The poetry of Sawant Singh also often became the theme of the paintings. Illustrated Shahnama and court scenes were other notable works of art. His chief artist Nihal Chand developed a mannerlist style that emphasized on slender curves and almond eyes of the figures.
The Kishangarh School is best known for its Bani Thani paintings. It is widely believed that Bani Thani, was a mistress of Savant Singh and was herself a singer and a poet. Bani Thani paintings were noticeable for their exaggerated features - long necks, large almond-shaped eyes, long fingers and the use of subdued colors.
After the demise of Savant Singh and his leading painters, the Kishangarh School lost its glory and declined in the course of 19th century.
Malwa (In present day Madhya Pradesh) School was one of the most conservative Rajput Painting School in the 17th century. Rasikpriya, dated 1634, and Ramayana dated 1650 are the earliest examples from this school. Influence of Chaurpanchasika style and use of flat planes of bright colors are some of the main features of these works of art.
Malwa paintings emphasized on strong colors like deep blues, reds and browns and bold lines. Remote Mughal influence was also evident in the paintings like that Amarusataka (100 verses of Amaru).
Rasabeli and Bhagavata Purana are some of the other notable illustrated works from this school.
The desert kingdom of Marwar (Jodhpur) in the 18th century is well known for its great visual paintings. Ragamala painted in Pali in 1623 is one of the earliest paintings from this school.
During the 18th century portraitures of nobles on their horses and darbar scenes became common. Artists like Dalchand brought with them Mughal traditions that were evident in the paintings. Under Maharaja Abhai Singh ( 1724-49) large volume of high standard work was produced.
Many of these priceless paintings are preserved in the Jodhpur Fort Museum Collection.
Mewar is notable for the fact that it resisted the domination of the Mughals for a considerable period and developed a very conservative style. Chawand Ragamala dated 1605 is one of the earliest examples of this school. The flatness, bright colors, and several common motifs showed marked resemblance with the Chaurapanchasika style.
Few notable painters of Mewar School were Nasr al Din and Sahibdin. Sahibdin dominated Mewar School from 1620-1650. His body of work includes Ragamala, Gita Govinda, Rasikpriya, and Bhagavata Purana.
In the mid 17th century another important artist Manohar was noted for his illustrated Ramayana.
The end of the 17th century and the early 18th century saw the revival of the Mewar style. Several high quality works of art were produced which emphasized on court scenes, religious subjects, and portraitures. In the first half of the 18th century ambitious studies of royal pursuits that used continuous narration were also produced.
The late 18th century saw the decline of the Mewar School. However in the mid 19th century, Tara, a painter tried to provide impetus to the Mewar School. He used European traditions in the paintings. Mewar painting continued as a court art till mid 20th century.
Gujarati Paintings of the 16th-17th centuries were related to Rajasthani styles but were less intense in color and often rougher in execution. Illustrated Jain texts, Gita Govinda, Balagopalastuti, and Bhagavata Purana were notable contributions of this school.
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