Saturday, June 27, 2015

Some Indian miniature paintings

I love Indian miniature paintings of all kinds. the more abstract ones have a marvelous sense of space and color. The romantic ones are charming, often depicting moods so well, I love the ones of the monsoon rainy season, which is considered a time of romance in India, the details and patterns of leafy trees and flowers and the paintings which include animals. 

Below are a few Indian miniature paintings found on the web. It's possible to buy Indian miniatures on eBay. There's a great selection. 

Kangra painting of the Cosmic Sun, 18th century

From a series of Vishnu Avataras: Yagya. Jaipur, circa 1860

Kalki Avatar
Punjab Hills, Guler, c. 1765

Two girls standing on a terrace, clasping hands and holding lotus flowers - Rajput Painting, early 19th century

From the Mary Binney Wheeler Image Collection

Divine Lovers in Moonlight, Kangra style, 1810, Chamba Museum, Himachal Pradesh, India

A miniature painting depicting two lovers watching birds in the sky, 1975-1982

Equestrian portrait of a princess, Guler style, 1790, Chamba Museum, Himachal Pradesh, India

Krishna releases the defeated Rukmi, Guler style, 1770, Chamba Museum, Himachal Pradesh, India

Radha and Krishna, Guler, 18th century, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

Portrait of a woman, Mughal miniature painting

Indian miniature painting showing a woman with peacocks in a landscape, 1978
Miniature Painting, The Rainy Season, Kangra, 19th century, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

Miniature Painting, The Rainy Season, Kangra, 19th century, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

Siva and Parvati, Kangra style, 1815, Chamba Museum, Himachal Pradesh, India

Krishna saving passengers from a shipwreck caused by a nefarious horse-headed deity, 1978-1982

'Divided from her darling,
most unhappy in love,
like a nun renouncing the world,
this Todi abides in the grove and
charms the hearts of the deers.'
(Pal, 1978, 128, quoting Coomaraswamy)
The lone lady, symbolic of love in separation or loss, is a leitmotif of ragamala paintings. Whether gathering flowers, wandering through the forest, or ruefully strumming a musical instrument, the lady yearns for her absent lover. One of the most easily recognisable and common images is that of the Todi ragini, where the lady holds a 'rudra vina' ('bin'), and is surrounded by deer. The physical attraction of bucks for human females has been used as a recurring sexual metaphor in Sanskrit poetry from antiquity. (Pal, 1978, 128) and significantly, in this image as most other Todi ragini, the lady faces the buck rather than the fawn. The musical raga is to be played in the first quarter of the day from sunrise; its expression tender and loving. It is believed that originally Todi was a song of village girls guarding the ripening fields against the deer who became so absorbed in listening, they would stop feeding (Ebeling, 1973, 60).
The delicate drawing of this image, the fineness of detail focussed on the central figure, and the minimal background, is typical of late Mughal styles. Different texts on Todi ragini allude to the lady's limbs being tinged and perfumed with saffron and camphor.
Goddess Durga fighting with Mahishasura (buffalo-demon) - Early 18th century Guler School painting

 Tansen and Swami Haridas in Vrindavan - Jaipur-Kishangarh mixed style, ca. 1750

Miniature Painting, Rukmini sending a message to Krishna, Guler style, 1790, Chamba Museum, Himachal Pradesh, India

Laila, Majnu, Kota, Rajasthan, c 1760, National Museum, Delhi
Saint Musicial Haridas,Akbar and Tansen, Kishangarh, Rajasthan, c 1760,National Museum, Delhi
Miniature from Gwalior, 1978
Bride and Groom, Agra, 1972
Ragini Todi Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, circa 1710 A.D., National Museum, New Delhi
Shri Vishnu Saving the Elephant Gajendra, Pahari region, Guler, circa 1760.

from the excellent Indian Miniature Paintings blog

From the Navin Kumar website,
 Court Paintings of India from the 16th to the 19th Centuries

From the Victoria and Albert Museum website

Hindu hill kingdoms

Nainsukh, 'Mian Mukund Dev of Jasrota riding through a meadow', about 1754. Museum no. IS 7-1973
Nainsukh, 'Mian Mukund Dev of Jasrota riding through a meadow', about 1754. Museum no. IS 7-1973. Opaque watercolour and gold on paper.

In the hills at the edge of the Panjab plains, isolated Hindu kingdoms nurtured strongly distinctive styles of painting. For some of the 17th century and throughout the 18th, Pahari artists - artists 'of the hills' - produced extraordinarily vibrant paintings for the rulers of states such as Basohli, Mankot, Nurpur, Chamba, Kangra, Guler and Mandi. They illustrated the ancient stories of Hinduism and depicted the lives of their patrons, the characteristics of these divine or earthly figures drawn from a large repertoire of conventions.

Their work is stylised, but full of vigour, their subjects often isolated against backgrounds of saturated colour - deep yellow or intense red, or gentler hues of sage green or ultramarine.
Little is known about these artists, but the family relationships of some Pahari masters has come to be established, providing the key to understanding stylistic influences between the different courts. Artists travelled from one to the other over the generations, creating their own individual styles yet working within a recognisable family tradition. One of the most significant families was that of Pandit Seu of Guler, who died in about 1740, and his sons, the remarkable Nainsukh and Manaku.
Pahari artists also worked for Sikh chiefs in the late 18th century and when Sikh rule united the Panjab and the Hindu kingdoms declined, the later generations of Pahari artists increasingly turned to the Sikh courts for patronage.

Attributed to the "Durga Master." Vishnu Reclining on Ananta. From Sage Markandeya's Ashram and the Milky Ocean, c. 1780-1790.

Via: translinguistic other

"Vishnu’s flotation device is Ananta-Shesha, the infinitely-headed serpent on which the god reposes during the endless, timeless period before/between the creation of the universe(s). In Hinduism—as in most mythological systems around the world—the serpent is a complex and multivalent symbol.  Cosmologically speaking, Ananta may well represent the Milky Wayhe is said to wear the planets on his myriad hoods and he is instrumental in the churning of the cosmic “ocean of milk” described in the Samudra manthanepisode of the Puranas.  But he also represents the infinite potentiality of energy and consciousness in all matter."

Bikaner school indian miniature, XIXth century Region: India Period: Bikaner school, XIXth century Collection of the Maharadja of Bikaner Collection Of Pastor H. Maas, The Netherlands. Painting in good condition, framed.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Walter Spies and Balinese art

Bali is an island in Indonesia that attracted Walter Spies, a Russian born, German artist who settled in the colonial Dutch East Indies from 1923 on. Adored by the Balinese, Spies was the co-founder of the Pita Maha artists' cooperative, he shaped the development of contemporary Balinese art and established the West's image of Bali that still exists today.

As a young man, Walter Spies moved in high society; the avant garde culture of pre-war Moscow, then in Berlin and Dresden, Germany, to where he moved in 1918.
However, by 1923 he no longer felt at home with all the decadence of Europe. In his journal he wrote: ""I then decided to just go somewhere, anywhere, to a faraway land. And after going on a challenging and formidable journey as a sailor in a cargo vessel I arrived in Java, where I decided to jump ship!""
Arriving in Bali to live permanently in 1927 after a stint as court conductor for the Sultan of Yogyakarta's European orchestra, this Russian-born son of a German businessman-diplomat settled in Ubud as a painter, where with Tjokorda Agung Sukawati he eventually founded the Pita Maha Arts Society, the catalyst of modern art in Bali...
Spies's stay in Bali ended in 1939 when he was taken to court and jailed for homosexuality during a morality-driven witch hunt by the Dutch government. While imprisoned in Surabaya, he painted his best work, hailed as magical realism, depicting changes in feelings and subconscious attitudes: The Landscape and its Children. -  - Walter Spies: The legacy of a banished demon by Kadek Krishna Adidharma, Contributor, Ubud
Die Landschaft und ihre Kinder - The Landscape and its Children

One of my favorite artists, Walter Spies, lived in Bali. Here are two of his paintings in Paul Spies' house in Jakarta. The photograph below is in the Tropenmuseum collection. The Walter Spies painting is called In the Morning Light
In the Morning Light

 Desa auf dem Dijengplateau (1924)

Balinese Landscape with Temple and Volcano (date unknown)

Sawas im Preangergebirge (1923)

Die Landschaft und ihre Kinder - The Landscape and its Children
Sumatranische Landschaft (1941)
Preangerlandschaft (1923)
Die Kleinen Nebel (1938)
Balinese Legend (1928)
Palmendurchblick (1938)
Iseh im Morgenlicht (1938)
Lanschaft mit Schattenkuh / Landscape with a Cow’s Shadow (1939)
Heiliger Wald Bei Sangsit (1930)
Recommending Geff Green's website of Walter Spies paintings and drawings

Walter Spies

The hands,1939

Prelude: Letter from the Surabaya Jail

This excerpt from the Prelude opens “Imagining Gay Paradise” with the gay artist Walter Spies in jail in the Dutch East Indies, victim of a Nazi-inspired “morals scandal” that had used fears of a “triple taboo” against homosexuality, inter-racial relations, and cross-generational male friendships to politically undermine the Dutch government. Spies  wondered about a world where all had to fit a single monumental template of nature dictated by tyrannical minds. He preferred to celebrate the magical realities of miniature queer patterns of life.
Scherzo für Blechinstrumente / Scherzo for Brass Instruments (1939)
His Scherzo for Brass Instruments, reputedly painted in a half-trance state, contains many incarnations of the artist as he explores an inner landscape from various points of view.
In a letter to Carl Gotsch, Spies describes the process of painting Scherzo as a spiritual and sacred purification of the soul akin to rebirth: ""The funny thing is, I really feel as if this is my very first painting. I really feel as if I am beginning a new life.""
Dedicated to Leopold Stokowski, then the conductor of Chicago's Philharmonic Orchestra, Scherzo was shipped from Surabaya to America, but never reached its destination. Today's reproductions are from photographs taken by Spies in prison.  - Walter Spies: The legacy of a banished demon by Kadek Krishna Adidharma, Contributor, Ubud
Photo credit: Miguel y Rosa Covarrubias 

Walter Spies - a life in art by John Stowell

When he died 70 years ago, the artist Walter Spies was known to only a few close friends. Now he is prized as one of the finest painters of the tropical landscape. This was one of many gifts that he made available to the people of Bali in the years between 1927, when he first settled there, and 1940 when he was interned as an enemy alien. In the turmoil of war and the turbulence of the post-war years, his fate remained for a time unknown and his life and deeds in Bali gradually took on mythic proportions. He was remembered almost as a founding figure, one who had taken the arts of Bali to unprecedented heights. There was some truth in this hyperbole; he had indeed made a massive contribution to the reputation of the island as a centre of special artistic excellence during the 1930s. He was not alone in this endeavour. Together with the Dutch painter Rudolf Bonnet & Cokorda Gede Agung Sukawati he gave the initial impetus to the flowering of the visual arts in Ubud and district. His films & recordings brought his friends the Mexican painter Miguel Covarrubias & the Canadian composer Colin McPhee to Bali. The Covarrubias cultural guidebook, The Island of Bali, has accompanied generations of tourist visitors for the past seventy years, while McPhee joined Spies in stimulating growth of musical culture in the Regency of Gianyar and furthered it in the West with his own compositions. The reputation of Ubud as a hub of cultural tourism continues to the present day. Its status is accepted by the Indonesian Government for its contribution to the island economy. This 344-page book, which at 24x32cm (portrait), present a fully-documented biography in an 80,000-word text. It places the works & related documents in chronological order & supplies a catalogue of all the known works and an analytical index. The biography traces the remarkable life of an exceptional individual whose career touched at many points the challenging issues of the first half of the 20th century.


At the agung rai online gallery there are examples of paintings that were influenced by Walter Spies. One of my very favorite contemporary Balinese painting styles is called Pengosekan, from the village in Bali. the images are full of green leaves, birds, creatures, in a lush complexity. 

In Penestanan village there is a painting style known as Young Artist, initiated by Arie Smit, a Dutch artist who lives in Bali. Young Artist painters use unusual colors such as red for the sea, blue for human skin, yellow for the sky, etc.

There is the Batuan style, from the village of Batuan, which generally has intricately detail and a darker look.

Here are some examples of the Pengosekan style.
By Dewa Putu Sena
By Dewa Putu Sena
By Galuh, in the Walter Spies' style
By I Gusti Ngurah Kepakisan 
Photo credit: Green Field Hotel, Ubud, Bali
Photo credit: Green Field Hotel, Ubud, Bali
Photo credit: Export Bali
Painting by I Gst. Kt. Selamet
Via Artisans of Bali on eBay
Via Artisans of Bali on eBay
Via Artisans of Bali on eBay
Via Artisans of Bali on eBay
Nyoman-sinom-120×62-rajapala at the Tari Gallery
Here is an example of the Batuan painting style

I Wayan TAWENG. Crayon et acrylique sur papier. Signé.32 cm x 22,5 cm 
Kris Dancy by Ida Bagus Sena
Wayan tino-Barong dance-70×90 from the Tari Gallery