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Brush with heritage

An exclusive gallery of Mysore traditional paintings is being inaugurated at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath today



Incorporating myriad forms, lines, colours and space, the delicately balanced paintings provide enormous details in minute and exhaustive transcriptions.

WITH THE opening of an exclusive gallery of Mysore traditional paintings, a new feather is being added to Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath's already crowded cap. Collected with great effort by the former secretary of the Parishath, M.S. Nanjunda Rao, and preserved with care in the Parishath archives over the years, the exquisite paintings have now been put on public display, mainly due to the initiative of D.K. Chowta, Parishath's present Secretary. Chowta has not only made a handsome financial contribution, but also guided the project which has taken over a year to complete.

Covering 1,600-feet area on the first floor of Parishath, the gallery houses more than 100 antique paintings, which have been meticulously restored and aesthetically framed.

Royal patronage

"The so-called traditional paintings of Mysore belong to an idiom that was fostered largely in the royal court of the erstwhile State of Mysore," writes S.K. Ramachandra Rao in his book Mysore Chitramala. He also explains how rulers the Wadiyars provided royal patronage to the traditional artist community by offering accommodation and encouragement since the days of Raja Wadiyar (1578-1617). Haidar Ali and Tippu Sultan were equally supportive to the artists, and after Tippu's death, and installation of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III (1799-1868) on the Mysore throne by the British, a new chapter in the history of traditional paintings was opened. The Parishath gallery is dedicated to the memory Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, who brought a new dimension to the art by making the artworks available to common people through miniatures prepared in the same style and with the same themes.

Many of the works displayed at the gallery revolve around well-known themes drawn from epics and puranas. One can perceive considerable depth, novelty and innovation in these works even as they have followed the prescribed conventions of the time. In many of the paintings, the artist's imaginative skill and excellent draughtsmanship come to the fore both in terms of technique and comprehension of complex subject matter. Incorporating myriad forms, lines, colours and space, the delicately balanced paintings provide enormous details in minute and exhaustive transcriptions.

Among the absorbing compositions on display at the gallery are the portraits of Chamundeshwari, Saraswati, Navanita Krishna, Lakshmi Narasimha, Adi Narayana, Vishnu and an unusually postured Ganapati, crawling on all four legs. Scenes depicting Siva's wedding with Parvati, episodes from Bhagavatha, Lakshmi emerging out of the milky ocean, coronation of Rama, story of Kuchela and the wedding of Rama and Sita are skillfully rendered. In a separate section, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III and his family are portrayed. Not to be missed is an outstanding series of 11 miniature portraits of common people sketched by court-artists of Mysore. Another set of 10 sketches, separately grouped in the gallery, show a distinct style of lines and figures, even in delineation of mythological themes.

Dolls' gallery

The gallery also houses a multi-layered Gombe Totti, with colourful dolls, with an expansive painting by Subramanya Raju depicting the Dasara procession forming an impressive backdrop.

The gallery of Mysore traditional paintings is being formally inaugurated by the Governor of Karnataka T.N. Chaturvedi today (November 22) at 5 p.m.. Jnanpith Award-winning Kannada writer U.R. Ananthamurthy will preside over the function. S.K. Ramachandra Rao's book, Mysore Chitramala, will be released by Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah.

ATHREYA

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