Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

exquisite miniatures by Nainsukh

Expressive: Nainsukh was known for his ethereal style of painting.  Indian minature paintings fascinated me from the first time I set eyes on them as a child in a lovely book in Lady Irwin School library. In later years, my little son and I would spend many holidays exploring Mumbai's Prince of Wales Museum. Their fabulous collection of Indian miniature paintings was among our favourite haunts. These intricately painted gems were marvellous down to the minutest detail. So many schools, each with their distinctive styles; so many wonders packed into tiny spaces. Who created them? What inspired them? What were their lives and times like?

Many of our artists of yore are nameless and faceless. While some of their beautiful creations have survived the ravages of time, little is known about these individual artists. I recently attended the inaugural lecture for Tasveer Foundation’s lecture series by eminent art historian Prof B N Goswamy, who threw fresh light on this beautiful art form.

From the 17th to mid-19th centuries, artists of the Himalayan foothills or pahari region produced exquisite miniature paintings, which are a vital part of India’s artistic heritage. Foremost among them was Nainsukh, whom Prof B N Goswamy ranks among India’s finest miniature painters. Working in the 18th century, Nainsukh left behind a treasure trove of portraits, court scenes, hunting scenes and glimpses of daily life. In the 100-odd surviving paintings and sketches attributed to him, we see a deceptively simple world rife with complex subtleties. With an incredibly light yet masterly touch, Nainsukh’s paintings breathe life into magical and intensely human moments from times long gone.

Nainsukh was born in Guler, a tranquil place in the hills, and created many of his paintings there as well as in Jasrota. He painted in a fresh, realistic and ethereal style, marking a change from the earlier heritage of rich, bold colours, robust human figures and breath-taking stylised language of art. Nainsukh’s work is marked not by emphatic accents, but by soft, delicate tones.
They appear simple at first glance, but a closer look reveals subtle nuances brought out through skillfully executed precise lines. Nainsukh captured the beauty of the people and their emotions, and the verdant hills where they lived.

My detailed essay on Nainsukh can be read in Sunday Herald


samyyyr said...

Our heritage is our culture.
Many of the most exquisite Indian miniatures were commissioned during the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar.

monideepa sahu said...

Thanks for dropping by, Samyyyr. If you read my full article, the link to which is given at the end of the blog post, I've written about various styles of miniature painting. Nainsukh interpreted, incorporated and single-handedly changed the course of pahari miniature paintings, which are distinctive in their style and subjects. Even when Nainsukh copied Mughal paintings, he added his own interpretations and refinements. He worked under the patronage of Raja Balwant Singh of Jasrota.

samyyyr said...

The Guler style given by Nainsukh was the 2nd phase of pahari miniature (1st phase:basholi style) and it was followed by Kangra style which are attributed to the Nainsukh family.

Its strange that now I know this even when I never had liked the History subject in my school days.
And I did even a google search on this topic to know more about it (after reading your article in Deccan Herald).

monideepa sahu said...

Hi Samyyyr. Great that you went ahead and learnt so much about miniature paintings.This isn't about mugging up dry facts from history (or art history in this case) and doing some high funda course and getting a degree. It's more about appreciating something unique and beautiful, and wanting to know more.