Tuesday, July 07th, 2009 | Author:

Kalighat painting is a relatively less known painting tradition. Originated in Kalighat, Kolkata, it’s a beautiful form of classic paintings. Its inception is credited to cultural upheavals of nineteenth century colonial Bengal. Many scroll painters and potters who had settled around Kalighat temple after migrating from rural Bengal, contributed heavily to this form of painting. The artists developed their own style of painting and themes that later came to be known as Kalighat painting. The modus operandi was to use watercolors and consequently painting on economical mill papers. Calf and squirrel hair were used to make brushes whereas to create transparent tones, low priced color pigments were applied. This was a relatively new thing as earlier Indian tempera was in vogue.


The most appealing part of Kalighat painting was wonderful gestures, flawless rhythmic strokes and quality brushwork. Technique is quite simple but the final outcome is extremely attractive and bold. Kalighat paintings got quite a lot of popularity because of its strong social themes and consciousness. It expressed subaltern sentiment and for that it becomes so unique. Its origin has definitely a religious undertone and inspiration. The initial themes were taken from Hindu mythology including deities. With the passage of time, social themes took center stage. Humor was also a necessary ingredient of the themes, however it was grim.


The most used themes were of loose women and Bengali ‘Babus’ and their decrepit culture. Kalighat paintings depicted altering lifestyles and changing societal landscapes. It’s definitely a legacy that deserves to be preserved. These paintings started to get their due attention and recognition in the twentieth century. Its surely a brilliantly inventive aesthetic movement and has also started to get international attention.

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