Thursday, March 19, 2009

Miniature Paintings & More

While in Udaipur in Rajasthan I visited some of the studios known for producing miniature paintings, a traditional Indian art form. Artists painted everything from portraits to idyllic scenes from royal days with the aid of paint brushes made of squirrel tail hair(s). Rather than succumb to the chemicals that modern day painters use, those true to the art form use natural pigments including cow urine for the gold coloring.

Can't make it to India to see these masterpieces? Check out the Garden & Cosmos exhibit at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It's a royally impressive collection of 58 paintings and works created from the 17th to the 19th century coming all the way from Jodhpur, in Rajasthan, India. And, it's the first exhibition of these works in the U.S.

These exotic creations of palace life, depictions of the gods, and portrayals of the cosmos are intensely colored in gorgeous hues and shades of gold, lilac, magenta, ochre, and deep jungle green. The paintings are precise, infinitesimally detailed, and mesmerizing. Silvery parrots and snowy egrets roost in lush trees. A bejeweled maharaja is serenaded by nubile bosomed queens and attendants. Steel gray elephants cavort beneath cobalt-blue rain clouds. Red-faced monkey soldiers wearing garments that look suspiciously like underpants bravely battle to rescue Sita, wife of Rama.

When your eyes tire of soaking in the painstaking yet beautiful detail, take a break in the room filled with photographs of Jodphur's and Rajasthan's rich culture including the people, forts, dancers, pageantry and modern day royalty.

Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur
Tues.-Sun., Through April 26 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, 1400-E. Prospect St. 654-3100.

Maharaja Bakhat Singh Rejoices during Holi,
ca. 1748 - 50
Opaque watercolor on paper
Attributed to Nagaur, India
29 x 37"
Mehrangarh Museum Trust, RJS 1986