Iconic Painting Styles of India: The Colors that Shape the Nation

Iconic Painting Styles of India: The Colors that Shape the Nation
Art Log

Explore India's rich and diverse painting styles, from the enchanting Madhubani and vibrant Warli to the intricate miniature and spiritual Kerala Mural. Discover captivating art forms that reflect India's cultural heritage and artistic expressions through centuries of tradition.

India possesses an incredibly diverse cultural identity, beautifully portrayed through its captivating folk arts and crafts. These mesmerizing painting styles flourish across different regions, embodying rich traditions, customs, and beliefs passed down from generation to generation. Originally manifested as cloth paintings, wall paintings, or murals, these art forms have evolved to find expression on canvases, paper, and more. Indian painting styles offer glimpses into ancient ways of life but also serve as exquisite examples of artistic expression through their simple yet distinctive compositions. Presented below is a selection of India's renowned folk painting styles.

Religious madhubani traditional_art titled 'Ganesha', 30x22 inches, by artist Mithilesh Jha on Paper

Madhubani Painting

Madhubani paintings, originating in the Mithila region of Bihar, are the most revered folk painting style in India. These captivating artworks adorn Bihar houses, leaving viewers enchanted by their intricate illustrations. Madhubani paintings are renowned for their evocative portrayal of culture and traditions, serving as a remarkable medium of artistic expression. The designs feature distinct geometric patterns, mythological scenes, and symbolic imagery. What sets Madhubani apart is its unique amalgamation of vibrant colors and intricate patterns, making it truly stand out among other painting styles. The art form encompasses five styles: Katchni, Tantrik, Bharni, Khobar, and Godna. Lalita Devi and Bua Devi, National Award-winning artists, have contributed to Madhubani artworks in India.

Figurative warli traditional_art titled 'Warli Art 32', 9x8 inches, by artist Sanjay Parhad on Cloth

Warli Painting

Warli, a traditional painting style dating back 2500 years, originated in Maharashtra and is predominantly practiced in the Thane and Nashik regions. Warli paintings beautifully depict the tribe's natural surroundings and social rituals. They offer glimpses into the everyday lives of the local community, capturing scenes of dancing, farming, hunting, praying, and more. These lively designs are created by local women using twigs and rice paste, adorning mud walls to convey celebratory spirits during harvests or weddings. Jivya Soma Mashe, a Padma Shri honored artist, has made remarkable contributions to the preservation and promotion of traditional tribal artwork in India.

Religious kalighat traditional_art titled 'Untitled 11', 20x14 inches, by artist Anwar Chitrakar on Paper
Kalighat Painting

The Kalighat painting style emerged in the mid-19th century at the Kali Temple in Calcutta. These mesmerizing paintings and drawings were created on paper by a community of artists known as "patuas". Kalighat paintings beautifully depict scenes from everyday life as well as mythological deities, capturing the viewer's attention with their captivating style. Artists working in the Kalighat tradition employ subtle earthy Indian colors, including indigo, ochre, Indian red, gray, blue, and white, to bring their artworks to life. Anwar Chitrakar is a distinguished artist who has received National Awards for his outstanding contributions to Kalighat artworks in India.

Religious phad traditional_art titled 'Royal Ride 2', 18x18 inches, by artist Abhishek Joshi on Handmade Canvas

Phad Painting

Phad is a traditional Rajasthani scroll painting from India that holds substantial cultural significance. These remarkable artworks portray local deities, heroic battlefield figures, thrilling adventures, and legendary romantic stories. Painted on horizontal cloth scrolls, Phad paintings are characterized by vibrant hues of red, yellow, and bright orange. They capture the viewer's imagination by skillfully weaving multiple stories into a single composition. This showcases the rich artistic expression of the Rajasthani tradition. Shri. Shantilal Joshi is a highly esteemed artist who has received national recognition and awards. He has contributed to the preservation and promotion of Phad paintings and artworks.

Kalamkari Painting

Kalamkari, an ancient art form dating back 3000 years, hails from Andhra Pradesh and involves hand and block printing techniques. This distinctive folk art form is renowned for its narrative scrolls and panels. Kalamkari exhibits a fascinating blend of Persian influences. The name "Kalamkari" itself derives from "kalam," meaning pen, highlighting the use of this tool in the art form. Kalamkari has been passed down through generations, preserving its legacy. Kalamkari artworks are often indigo, green, rust, black, and mustard. Sanjay Chitara, a National Award winner, contributed to Kalamkari Indian folk art paintings. This exemplifies the art form's continued vitality and creativity.

Figurative miniature traditional_art titled 'Indian Women Playing Music In Lawn', 7x13 inches, by artist Unknown on Silk

Miniature Painting

Miniature painting is an art form deeply influenced by the Mughal era, introduced to India in the 16th century. It has left an indelible mark on Indian art history. It is a remarkable fusion of Islamic, Persian, and Indian artistic elements. Miniature paintings are meticulously created using all-natural mineral colors, precious stones, conch shells, gold, and silver, resulting in exquisite artwork. Across India, the miniature painting style has evolved and developed its distinct schools, such as Kangra, Rajasthan, Malwa, Pahadi, Mughal, Deccan, and more. These schools showcase unique regional variations and interpretations of the mini-art form. Gopal Prasad Sharma, a highly talented artist, has been recognized with national awards for his exceptional contributions to miniature artwork in India.

Animals gond traditional_art titled 'Elephant 4', 32x27 inches, by artist Choti Gond Artist on Canvas

Gond Painting

Gond paintings are a traditional art form characterized by dots and dashes in an arranged pattern, originating from the Gondi tribe of central India. The Gond artists skillfully recreate famous epic mythological tales, traditional songs, and rituals through their artwork, employing rich detailing and vibrant colors. Traditionally, Gond paintings use natural materials such as cow dung, plant sap, charcoal, colored soil, mud, flowers, leaves, and more. Over time, Gond art has transcended its tribal origins and gained recognition as a distinctive art style. Bhajju Shyam, an acclaimed artist from Madhya Pradesh, has received national awards for his outstanding contributions to Gond art. It illustrates the talent and creativity inherent in this unique art form.

Figurative acrylic painting titled 'Anandini 2', 36x30 inches, by artist Manikandan Punnakkal on Canvas
Kerala Mural Painting

Kerala mural paintings, a highly distinctive art form, have profound spiritual roots and beautifully portray Hindu mythology themes. While exploring these captivating artworks, you can witness stories of bygone epochs, Krishna's classic tales, and Shiva and Shakti's mystical forms. Kerala mural paintings feature bold strokes and vibrant colors. White, ochre-red, bluish-green, yellow-ochre, and pure colors contribute extensively to stunning compositions. Achutan Ramachandran Nair, an eminent artist, has been honored with the prestigious Padma Bhushan award for his exceptional contributions to contemporary artwork. This award reflects his significant impact on the art world.

Image Courtesy: Pinterest|https://in.pinterest.com/madhuricharan/patachitra-paintings/


Patachitra is a traditional art form from Odisha. It showcases exquisite paintings influenced by mythological and religious themes. Patachitra paintings are known for their bold and eye-catching outlines, accompanied by vibrant colors like white, red, yellow, and black. These artworks are often adorned with decorative borders, adding visual appeal. Patachitra has gained widespread admiration from art enthusiasts around the globe, captivating audiences with its intricate detailing and cultural significance. Sharat Kumar Sahu, an acclaimed artist, has received national recognition and awards for his outstanding contributions to the Patachitra art form. Through his talent and efforts, he has successfully traced the path of this traditional art form internationally, showcasing its beauty and heritage to a global audience.

Religious pichwai traditional_art titled 'Sreenathji Dhwar Puja', 14x10 inches, by artist Pichwai Art on Cloth


Pichwai artwork can be traced back to the Krishna temple in Nathdwara, Rajasthan. It originated as magnificent wall hangings positioned behind the main deity. The term "Pichwai" is derived from the Sanskrit words "Pichh" meaning back and "wais" meaning hanging, referring to the artworks that hang at the back of the deity. These intricate and detailed artworks beautifully narrate stories related to Lord Krishna, serving as a visual expression of devotion and reverence. Pichwais are renowned for their vibrant colors, meticulous craftsmanship, and symbolic motifs. The devotional art form represents a rich spiritual tradition and exemplifies the deep connection between art and spirituality. Kalyan Mal Sahu, a highly accomplished artist, was honored with the prestigious national award in 2011 for his remarkable contributions to Pichwai art. This award reflects his immense talent and dedication to preserving and promoting this cherished artistic tradition.


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