Bihar Paintings

Perhaps the best known genres of Indian folk paintings are the Mithila (also called Madhubani) paintings from the Mithila region of Bihar state. For centuries the women of Mithila have decorated the walls of their houses with intricate, linear designs on the occasion of marriages and other ceremonies, Painting is a key part of the education of Mithila women, culminating in the painting of the walls of the kohbar, or nuptial chamber on the occasion of a wedding. The kohbar ghar paintings are based on mythological, folk themes and tantric symbolism, though the central theme is invariably love and fertility.

Paintings from Bihar

The contemporary art of mithila painting was born in the early 1960’s, following the terrible Bihar famine. The women of Mithila were encouraged to apply their painting skills to paper as a means of supplementing their meager incomes. Once applied to a portable and thus more visible medium, the skills of the Mithila women were quickly recognized. The work was enthusiastically bought by tourists and folk art collectors alike. As with the wall paintings, these individual works are still painted with natural plant and mineral-derived colors, using bamboo twigs in lieu of brush or pen.

Over the ensuing forty years a wide range of styles and qualities of Mithila art have evolved, with styles differentiated by region and caste - particularly the Brahmin, Kayastha and Harijan castes. Many individual artists have emerged with distinctive individual styles. Among the best known early Brahmin artists have been the late Ganga Devi, Baua Devi, Sita Devi, and Karpoori Devi.

Today’s leading artists, working in the kayastha style, include Pushpa Kumari and her grandmother, Mahasundari Devi, both represented in this show. Other painters in their family include Pradyumna Kumar and Pushpa’s younger sister Mala Karn. Works by several of these Mithila artists (Baua Devi, Sita Devi and Mahasundari Devi), along with Santhal jadupatua paintings and old Bengali scrolls, are included in the show Stories, Ceremonies and Souvenirs: Popular Paintings from Eastern India, currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Bihar Arts & Crafts

holy cow

Holy Cow - Mithila painting
Sudha Kumar - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(7 1/2" h. x 11" w. )

mango tree

Holy Cow and Mango Tree- Mithila painting
Punam Kaln - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink and watercolor on paper
(7 1/2" h. x 11" w. )

holy cow with calf

Holy Cow with Calf - Mithila painting
Sudha Kumar - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(7 1/2" h. x 11" w. )

 
mandala

Mandala (The separation of land and water on earth, and the creation of night and day)
Mithila painting (#9)
Pradyumna Kumar - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(22" h. x 30" w. )

pastoral scene

Pastoral Scene
Sudha Kumari - Mithila, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(11" h. x 15" w. )

navagraha

The Navagraha (Nine planetary positions which govern and influence human life)
Mithila painting (#4)
Mala Karn - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(22" h. x 30" w. )

 
wood cutter

Wood Cutter in the Forest - Mithila painting
Pradyumna Kumar - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(11" h. x 7 1/2" w. )

woman carrying water

Woman Carrying Water - Mithila painting
Pradymna Kumar - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(11" h. x 7 1/2" w. )

bird diving for fish

Bird Diving for Fish
Pradyumna Kumar - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(15" h. x 11" w. )

 
snakes and birds

Snakes and Birds
Punam Karn - Mithila, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(15" h. x 11" w. )

shiva the destroyer

Shiva the Destroyer
Mahasundari Devi - Mithila, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(15" h. x 11" w. )

deer in the forest

Deer in the Forest
Sudha Kumari - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(15" h. x 11" w. )

 
ardhanareshwar

Ardhanareshwar
Pushpa Kumari - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(15" h. x 11" w. )

gautama buddha

The Life of Gautama Buddha
Pradyumna Kumar - Madhubani, Bihar, India
Late 20th cent.
Ink on paper
(30" h. x 22" w. )

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