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A painting is equal to thousand words, means a beautiful painting is equal to million of words. Paintings are one of the oldest art forms -- throughout history artists have played an important role in documenting social movements, spiritual beliefs and general life and culture.

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Canons of Art Criticism

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 1:31 AM
monalisa Indian painting
The Vishnudharmottara commends the ability of the artist who could effectively paint wavy lines, flames, smoke and flags to indicate the direction of the wind. The artist who could, in his pictures, clearly show the distinction between the sleeping and the dead is rated equally high.
Like the poet and the musician, the artist in ancient India also had elaborate canons of criticism to understand and judge merits and defects in pictures. A passage in the Upamitibhavaprapanchakatlui mentions the several factors that go to make a good picture: "Here is a fine drawing, delicately drawn in an unobtrusive line, coloured gay in bright colours, with relief suggested by modelling; with the element of ornamentation appropriately introduced, symmetrical portrayal of body, emotion and joy executed in really admirable manner." 

But above all, beyond the beautifully prepared ground, the sure line, the charm of the colour and the shade suggesting depth, there is something more important that makes the picture a masterpiece and arrests attention, and that is the master artist's stroke, chitrasyeva manohari kartuh kim api kausalam (Vakroktijivita, III). Symmetry, foreshortening, strength in drawing, beauty in colour and other merits enhance the charm of a picture, while coarse, weak and vague drawing, lack of symmetry, muddling of colours, bad pose, lack of emotion, dirty execution, lifeless portrayal and other defects detract from the value of the painting. The Vishnudharmottara enumerates both.

Shakuntala Waiting for Her BelovedThe element of suggestion in pictures enhances their charm and establishes the superior skill of the artist who could produce such. The dress of a princess gives a clue to her virginity; the mode of worship of a rishikumara suggests the time of the day as at Mahabalipuram where the hermit holding his hands in yamapasamudra to peep at the sun during the suryopasthana suggests midday.

Minute details as even the shape of hair like kuntala, dakshinavarta, taranga, simhakesara, etc., the measurement of limbs in general according to tala proportions, different shapes of eyes like chapakara, mats yodara, utpalpatrabha, etc., poses or sthanas like rijvagata, ardharju, etc., different methods of foreshortening or lcshayavriddhi, the methods of shading like patra, raikhika, binduja, the modes of representing a variety of subjects chosen for delineation like kings, courtiers, courtesans, warriors, animals, rivers, etc., and several other art themes, which compose detailed canons of art criticism are discussed in the Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara, which was an accepted textbook for artists and sculptors and nagarakas for a good general equipment in fine arts. It also shows that ancient India could boast of a highly evolved science of art criticism.

Rajesthani PaintibgWhat wonder then, if under such favourable conditions, the artist did very well? If the ivory carvers of Vidisa, who practised different mediums, could carve in stone as easily as they could paint with a brush and produce the Sanchi gateway, it is no wonder that a king on his elephant, who approached an ivory carver at work, covered all over with ivory dust, lost in his own work, unconscious even of the presence of the ruler so close to him, as given in early Buddhist texts, longed very much indeed that he himself were just a wonderful creative carver in ivory rather than the ruler in his dazzling palace that he was.



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