KANGRA PAINTING

During the closing years of the eighteenth century, the Punjab Hill State of Kangra became the centre of one of the greatest styles of Indian painting. A blend of Mughal accomplishment and Hindu aspirations, this painting was not directly affected by Western influence, yet in certain important ways it possesses a striking resemblance to certain kinds of Western art. Its flowing rhythmical line, its simple unaffected naturalism, its predilection for lovely feminine forms, above all, its air of innocent sexualityall these qualities have an obvious parallel in the art of Botticelli. At the same time, its merging of religion and romancethe one imbuing the other with natural exaltationinvites comparison with the poetry of Blake. But it is rather with the work of an important modern artist, the Belgian Paul Delvaux, that Kangra painting has its closest Western analogy. In Delvaux's work, the recurring subject is a romantic situationthe lonely passionate woman longing for a lover. There is no direct allusion to her agony but its constant underlying presence is revealed by means of sexual symbols. The lover is represented by a sculptured rider rearing in the moonlight, a candle flickering in the darkness, a pillar rising to the sky while the woman's passionate requirements are expressed through the imagery of trees, flowers and mirrors and the frank depiction of her nude magnificent charms. To this kind of visual poetry Kangra painting is exactly equivalent. Its characteristic theme is romantic love. Woman, lovely in herself, but restless with longing, is its constant subject while the whole function of incidental objects is 'to match the state of hearts'. Clouds, rain, trees, pitchers, flowers and turrets are all introduced as poetic symbols designed to indicate the final crisis.

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