I’m very much in love with the georgeous hand-made book Waterlife that I wrote about yesterday! Today I will give you a little background to this intriguing art style.
Madhubani paintings or Mithila Art is a style of painting practiced in the Mithila region of the Bihar state in India. They are named after the villages (Madhubani and Mithila) or region (Mithila) they originate from. The tradition arose in an agricultural society where time was very slow and village life revolved around traditions. The art was ritual art painted on walls or floors to celebrate important occasions in life. If you married off your daughter or a baby was born, you might ask a neighbor to make a painting on the wedding room wall, and give her a good meal and a piece of clothing for her trouble. During festivals, women have traditionally been painting decorative gods, goddesses and icons of fertility on the walls of their homes.
Most frequently the paintings contain images of Hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Often you also find pictures of the moon, sun and the sacred basil plant. Other motifs are court scenes or wedding scenes. As the art style has been confined to a certain geographical area, and the skills have been passed on through centuries, the content and style have remained largely the same. Traditional materials are simple things, easily found in the villages. Brushes are made by wrapping cotton around bamboo sticks, and color is then applied to the surface. The outlines are made using double lines, and the gaps in between are covered with crossed or straight lines. No shading is used.
In the late sixties the art form moved from walls to paper, cloth or canvas, and although essential elements and basic character remain the same, a lot of innovative and experimental work is developing the style further.
These are a few youtube clips showing how the art is done, and an interview with mithila artist Rani Jha about her life and art.
(film on mithila painting)
(film on artist Rani Jha)