Mughal emperors introduced their own style of painting with Persian inspiration
and added new themes, colours and forms. Court scenes were depicted in grandeur.
The background was usually hilly landscapes. Flowers and animals were also
vastly depicted and in these the Indian artists applied their own skills to
develop on the Persian ideas. The Mughal paintings are characterized by their
subtleness and naturalism and often depict historical events or court life. Mir
Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad were the two great artists in the court of Humayun
(1530-1556 AD). These two artists also remained active during Akbar's reign and
Abus Samad earned the nickname "Shirinqalam". Akbar (1556-1605 AD) can be
considered as the real founder of the Mughal painting.
Akbar had employed more than hundred painters from different parts of the
country and lavishly conferred honours on works of great excellence. He had
special admiration for the work of Hindu artists, notably Daswanth and Basawan.
Mughal painting was a cooperative work in which numerous artists and craftsmen
participated. Several noteworthy
works were completed during Akbar's period, which include the illustrated
stories of Hamza nama; illustrated Mahabharata called Razm-Nama
and the illustrated Ramayana and Timur nama, Babur nama and
Akbar-Nama. The Razm-Nama contained 169
paintings and was completed in 1589 AD. The paintings of the Akbar-Nama
are unsurpassed for their meticulous finish, their bold execution and their use
early 17th Century, the Mughal painting had come under the Western influence in
such devices as the use of light and shade to capture space and volume, aerial
perspective and the use of atmospheric effects to indicate spatial recession.
The Jessuit missions to the Mughal courts resulted in the synthesis of
two diverse cultures. The fusion
profoundly influenced the Mughal art and constituted one of the most flourishing
of artistic exchanges. Akbar's
leading court artists -- Kesu Das, Manohar, Basawan and Kesu Khurd -- were
fascinated by the Christian paintings and integrated these themes in their own
compositions. Basawan's Madonna
and Child and Manohar's Christ as Salvator Mundi are one of the
masterpieces of that period.
(1605-1627 AD) was the most enthusiastic patron of the Mughal painting. The
beauty of nature, in the form of plants, animals and birds, became an important
subject of the Mughal paintings during Jehangir's time. Jehangir promoted
calligraphy, which was considered to be the foremost art in the Islamic
world. Portrait painting also came into vogue during this period.
Mansur, Abdul Hasan and Bishandass were the great painters in the court
of Jehangir. Jehangir had bestowed the title of Nadir-ul-Asr on Mansur.
During this period, the influence of Western painting on the Mughal painters
became more pronounced. One of its contributions was the use of nimbus behind
the heads of the Mughal emperors in paintings. This practice, which was
originally adopted by the Mahayana Buddhist artists, was extensively utilised in
the Christian art of the middle Ages, which finally came to the Mughal courts as
a result of the interaction with the West.
Jehangir's reign was a period during which Indian, Persian and European
elements underwent a fusion and emerged into a distinct and novel style. Another
important development of Jehangir's time was the popularity of the albums of
achieved a new delicacy and romantic flavour during the reign of Shah Jahan.
Love, romance, portraits and durban scenes became the common
themes. The artists portrayed the romances of Laila-Majnu, Shirin-Farhad,
Kamrup-Kamlata and Baz Bahadur-Rupmati. Elephant fights and men controlling
mast elephants with fireworks and spears are also shown in a number of
paintings. Another common theme with the Mughal artists from the last quarter of
the 17th century and early 18th century is that of a young
lady standing under a willow tree holding a branch.
The chief artists of Shah Jahan's period were Muhammad Faqirullah Khan,
Mir Hashim, Muhammad Nadir, Bichitr, Chitarman, Anupchchatar, Manohar and Honhar. Aurangazeb's indifference to painting compelled mainly a
great artist to shift their bases to other kingdoms in Punjab, Rajasthan and
other parts of the country, precipitating a decline in the Mughal painting.
Shah I (1707-1712 AD) tried to restore the court patronage of painting.
The magnificent work of painting, Shahjahan-nama, was produced
during his period. Farruksiyar
(1713-1718 AD) continued the royal patronage of painting and so did Muhammad
Shah Rangila (1719-1748 AD). With
the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739 AD, the en masse exodus of artists
from Delhi began and the Mughal painting gradually went into oblivion.