All My Life Colours, Paintings Brushes And A
Blank Paper Have Given Me The Greatest Joy.
I graduated in fine arts
with a distinction and gold medal. In between I got married and I
found myself in the interiors of Tamil Nadu. There I discovered my
vocation in life. I met a group of senior master artists who used to
gather under one roof to create spectacular Tanjore paintings. I
persuaded them to let me just sit with them for a part of the day.
They agreed to the idea with some reluctance. I realized later it
was because traditional Tanjore art is passed down within the
framework of the traditional guru-shishya parampara
(teacher-disciple tradition) and only amongst the men folk. I
went to these traditional artists. I did not know their language
Tamil. But there I discovered that colours speak their own language.
A few days turned into 3 short years. I learned from them and then
worked with them. We were continuously making paintings for prayer
rooms, private collections and Institutions.
Antique painting often
arrived in a neglected and dilapidated condition and we did the
restoration work painstakingly. This part I loved the best. It is a
test of our skills, patience and perseverance.
After spending 3 deeply
enriching years it was time to move on. We arrived in Delhi. A few
months went by. I looked around and saw everywhere that the Tanjore
paintings available for sale were extremely poor examples of this
I thought that I could
put my fine arts background to good use here. I started working with
the artists. I decided on the colours, tones, themes and
compositions and the work details of the finest nature. For
inspiration we went back in time. We researched on the old
paintings, visited the museums and recreated some of the grand old
depictions that had not been replicate din recent times with the same
degree of depth and detail. Paintings that were so fine that they
came to life thus was born the Tanjore Room.
The Tanjore Room was set
up to bring the finest Tanjore paintings directly to people who
appreciate the rich heritage of Indias traditional art. It
gave these artists a direct platform for selling and marketing in the
My background in fine
arts has stood all of us in good stead. I guide them with fine
detailed work, pleasing colour combinations alive expressions and the
best of raw materials. The genuine Tanjore painting is bought on
faith and grows in elegance and value with each passing year.
We create paintings that
can stand the test of time easily a 100 years! We still make
the painting boards in the old traditional way. We take a teak
board, cut in according to sizes laid in the ancient texts. Paste a
sheet of paper on top of it, then we paste a piece of cotton cloth on
it after that we apply a herbal paste 3 times allowing each coat to
dry up thoroughly. Finally we polish the board with a smooth stone,
sprinkling some water on the surface. Now this board can last
forever. We trace the drawing and after that the stones area
arranged and relief work is done. Then a real gold leaf is applied.
The colours are then filled and when the painting is finished it is
framed suing teakwood that is hand hewn even today.
A noteworthy feature of
these paintings is the eyes of the deity! These are painted in such
a way that no matter where one stands in a room the eyes of the gods
always follow you. The colour schemes are bright and gay. The whole
canvas is extremely ornamental and full of grandeur with the lavish
use of gold, multi hued stones and real pearls. The Tanjore
paintings can also lend a home tranquil vibrations and create a
At the Tanjore Room we
even restore old paintings. We also advise people on how to take
good care of their precious paintings. We work with interior
designers to create the specific colour schemes required for these
paintings. We can also create a special Tanjore painting for a
connoisseur who is one the lookout for something unique. We have
books and catalogues that make it easy to commission/decide for
specific requirements. Sometimes we have rare antique Tanjore
paintings for the serious collector paintings that have great
THE TANJORE SCHOOL
This form is a grand
admixture of Craft and Art. It is dominated by an iconic style that
lays stress on pure colours and untinged mixtures. Special care is
laid on ornamentation and background architectural frames which are
slightly raised and yet relieved by the use of special paste and
wrapped in gold leaf after setting in stones of multiple
hues. The principal figures in the paintings are Gods and Goddesses
depicted in bold and larger than life proportions. Krishna in his
many facets is a favourite as is the enigmatic Ganesha along with the
bountiful Lakshmi and the erudite Saraswati. Depictions of
Ranganatha, Shiva, Rama and other deities are fewer but with greater
grandeur and complexity. Only the most talented and mature master
artists can do justice to such intricate and complex compositions.
These are much sought after by art collectors.
The Tanjore school of art
was born on the banks of the river Kaveri in South India. It
developed out of the Bhakti Movement, long after the unification of
the two great factions of Hinduism, the Shaivites and the
Vaishnavites. However it is to be noted that even the Vedas have a
mention of Ratan Jadit chitra or jewel encrusted paintings.
The Tanjore school
flourished under the royal patronage of the Maratha kings of Tanjore
(in itself a historical accident!) and reached its pinnacle
during the rule of Sarfoji Maharaj, a great patron of the art. Later
it fell on bad days during which the workmanship suffered.
As Jaya Appaswamy
recounts in her well known treatise (Tanjavur Painting of the
Maratha Period) on the Tanjore art that as the royal patronage
the role of the patron changed considerably.
The new patron was merely a shopkeeper or a customer, interested in
profit rather than in the excellence of the work; thus the decline of
the arts was also due to the growth of commercialism.
My efforts are to reverse
the tide by encouraging others to make the finest Tanjore paintings
in India with a strong emphasis on detail and fine brushwork to
rejuvenate this traditional art form of the Gods.
To this end I have
actively worked in the making of two programs televised on
Doordarshan. One was anchored by me and other was about the Tanjore
artist at work in which I took the viewer through the various
stages and details of creating a Tanjore painting. I hold
exhibitions to popularize the Tanjore art where I also have
interactive sessions to increase the awareness of the art form.
The Tanjore painting is
now beginning to move out of the puja (prayer) room and into the
living room. We need to accelerate this trend. After all it is the
only surviving paint based art form of ancient India.