Kerala murals: A final flourish in the history of traditional Indian painting

The traditional murals of Kerala represent the last flourish of the graceful and vibrant tradition of Chitrasutra. The Mattanchery and Padmanabhapuram Palaces, are particular instances of traditional Kerala mural art, unique in their style of drawing, depiction and colour schemes.

It is said; that late Amrita Sher Gill, the well-known painter who visited the palace in 1937 was fascinated by these ‘perfectly marvellous old paintings’. In a letter to her sister, she said she was surprised by the technique and the amazing knowledge of form, and the painters' power of observation. According to her, the Mattanchery paintings were more powerful than the Ajanta frescoes! You be the judge of that.

These glorious paintings are easily recognisable with their characteristic warmth and grandeur of rich colours, elaborate ornamentation, the sumptuousness of the outline, the depiction of volume through subtle shading, a crowding of space by divine or heroic figures; a strong sense of design and well-defined picturing.

The Kerala murals often look rather over-crowded with too many gods and celestial beings hovering around and filling up the painted surface. The paintings hardly have plain and clear spaces; as if the artist was keen to maximise space -utilisation 😀

The 14th -17th century murals of Kerala represent the final phase in the history of development traditional mural paintings of India.

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