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Nepali Painting Through The Ages

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Item Code: UAD471
Author: Madan Chitrakar
Publisher: Patan Museum Lalitpur, Nepal
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789937283533
Pages: 289 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 1.66 kg
Book Description
About the Author

The author, Madan Chitrakar, is a senior artist and an art- writer based in Kathmandu. As a leading art writer of the country, on many occasions he has taken Nepali Art beyond the borders - through his writings in many prestigious publications abroad - notably in Japan, India and Bangladesh.

Two well acclaimed books 'Tej Bahadur Chitrakar - Icon of a Transition' 2004 and 'Nepali Art: Issues Miscellany' - 2012 remain to his credit, in addition to the numerous writings on Art and Culture in English and Nepali.

Presently, he is associated with Tribhuvan University, Central Department of Fine Arts and Kathmandu University, Center for Art & Design as a member of the respective Subject Committee.


In 2010, The Patan Museum Board made a decision to host an exhibition of historical significance that would document the paintings made by the Chitrakar artists of Kathmandu Valley from Medieval times to the 20th century. The mission was driven by the need to research the role of the Chitrakar artists through the ages and to publish the final research as a reference for scholars and researchers. My association with the Chitrakar artists has been a long one and I am confident that Madan Chitrakar, artist and well known art writer, who has led the research on the monumental legacy bequeathed to us by the Chitrakar artists will serve as an invaluable document for scholars of Nepali art. Madanji has been instrumental in enlisting the support of the Chitrakar Samaj - our association with the Samaj led to many doors being opened. We were thus privy to private collections in the Chitrakar families that were not in the public gaze. Similarly, members of the Rana and Thapa family, whose ancestors had patronized Chitrakar artists, comprehended the significance of this research and allowed us to archive the paintings in their collection. We were additionally fortunate to have access to the collection of paintings at the National Museum Chhauni and in National Museum Bhaktapur and in Bhaktapur Municipality.

Five years after we began this project, the Great Earthquake of 2015 struck, destroying many of our cultural monuments. This volume has become even more important as some of the images presented in this book have been damaged. The two sumptuous murals of Krishna and Viratswaroop that adorned Bhimsen Thapa's Palace in Lagantole and had withstood the test of time were ravaged by the earthquake. The Department of Archaeology and the Nepalese Army made a heroic attempt to save the murals and were successful in cutting it out and transporting the mural piece by piece to the National Museum in Chhauni. However the fate of the murals in Hanumandhoka Palace and Bhaktapur Museum is tragically not the same. Though readers may verily question the author's claim that the Chitrakar artists were indeed the "sole artists" to whom we can attribute innumerable rare unsigned religious works paubhas and paintings, there is no doubt that Nepali Painting through the Ages is a treasure trove of images and information. A parallel study on the practice of traditional Chitrakar artists in India, would have added yet another dimension to our understanding of the Chitrakar artists, revealing how these shared artistic traditions and influences, progressed laterally and gradually became localized in the Nepal context. There are also rare and invaluable works of Chitrakar artists in several major international museums. Including images from these Museums would have revealed new insights into the art of the Chitrakar artists as makers of religious and ritual art and as the documenters of social history.

Madan ji has also included the work of Chitrakar artist, Rajman Chitrakar (1797- 1865) who was guided by Brian Houghton Hodgson (1833), British Resident and pioneer ethnologist, naturalist and artist, to make drawings and paintings on a variety of subjects that included architectural and zoological studies. Rajman's drawings and paintings are a testimony to the artist's versatility and maybe considered the first modern works by a Nepali artist as these works are a departure from prevailing traditional forms.

Photography entered Nepal at a time when her borders were politically sealed. European photographers (Clarence Comyn Taylor, Herzog and Higgins and later Richard Gordon Matzene) entered Nepal through the familial connection that the royal households in India had with Nepal. Their photographs chronicled the lives of the bejeweled aristocracy of Nepal and were in demand by the ruling families. Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur included the artist Bhajuman Chitrakar on his journey to England and France in 1850-1851. The artistic impact of this journey can be seen in Bhajuman's portraits of the Thapa and Rana clan. With time the camera passed on to the hands of the Chitrakar artists who continued to take photographs of their aristocratic patrons, the architecture of palaces and temples, urban spaces and the historic events that took place in the nation. When imported hand painted photographs became the rage amongst the elite, the Chitrakars honed their skills to meet this demand. The images in this book reveal the impact that photography had on the art of Chitrakars. In 1908, Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher included the artist and photographer Dirgha Man Chitrakar (1877-1951) in his retinue in the capacity of an official photographer on his journey to England. The portraits made by Dirgha Man after this European journey are very much in keeping with Western portraiture.

In 1918, Chandra Shumsher supported Tej Bahadur Chitrakar (1898-1971) in pursuing an arts education at the Government College of Art in Calcutta. Tej Bahadur returned to Nepal in 1927 with a distinction in portraiture and was hired as the official court painter. He also taught at Durbar High School and later became the Head of Juddha Kalapathsala (established by Juddha Shumsher in 1943) where he worked tirelessly to nurture a new generation of Nepali painters.

During the 104 years that the Rana family ruled Nepal, over 30 palatial buildings and a number of temples, sattals and paths were constructed. These palaces needed murals, paintings, backdrops for theatrical production which were staged in the palaces, busts, religious paintings for their prayer rooms. It is obvious that the Chitrakars were busy fulfilling commissioned works for their Patrons. However it is important to note that the aristocracy, were not the only patrons of the arts: the Chitrakar artists were busy with commissions placed by the Shah Kings, guthis, by local Vihars and Tibetan monasteries and by wealthy Newar merchants. The proximity of the Chitrakars to the Ranas and the artists within the Rana family: Dambar Shumsher, Samar Shumsher and Balkrishna Sama is significant and could be the subject for another book. By the time the Ranas were deposed in 1952, the Chitrakar artists had established themselves at the vanguard of the artistic movement in Nepal.

By the 20th century a few European painters also received commissions from the Ranas. I would like to mention the work of one artist here: the British sculptor Domenico Anotinio Tonelli (1851-1953), whose monumental life size sculptures were transported to Nepal. The expertise of the Chitrakars was no doubt employed to install Tonelli's work, which include amongst others the enigmatic equestrian statues of Jang Bahadur that are installed in Tundikhel Parade Ground. Oleographs by the Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma also made their way to Nepal, influencing the Chitrakar narrative of gods and goddesses.

The contribution of the Chitrakar artists in the 20th and 21st century needs to be researched and is the basis for a new volume dedicated to this period. The contribution of the Chitrakar artist's spans centuries and Madan ji's research exemplifies their extraordinary contribution to Nepali art. I would like to thank Shitu Rajbhandari for her invaluable contribution in editing the texts and Nischal Oli for his assistance. The time has come for the Chitrakar artists to be honored by the State, and a Museum established to recognize the gravitas of their contribution to Nepali art.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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