Acrylic on paper
a) 21.5 x 14.5 in (54.6 x 36.8 cm)
b) 27 x 19 in (68.5 x 48.2 cm)
(Set of two)
This lot will be shipped unframed
Originating from the Mithila region of Bihar, Mithila or Madhubani paintings are vibrant, flatly rendered works extant since the 14th century. Their function was similar to that of Warli paintings: they were made on the walls of homes during rituals and auspicious occasions. Discovered as recently as the 20th century, artists began using paper as a medium to sell their works.
This shift happened following a drought in 1960s. The All India Handicrafts Board aimed to generate income through this art form by coaxing women from villages surrounding Madhubani to sell their art. After gaining immense recognition at cultural fairs in India and abroad, artists from various communities took up this art form. Though the drought was instrumental in propelling Mithila paintings to fame, others had laid ground for this in preceding years. In 1934, a massive earthquake in Bihar prompted William G. Archer, an officer in the Madhubani district, to assess the damage done to villages. On discovering paintings created by the women on the walls, he published them in an article in the 1949 edition of Marg. Efforts through the decades have given this art form the recognition that has now popularised it.
Stylistically, Mithila paintings feature figures juxtaposed with ornamental patterns. To distinguish it from other folk arts, the figures lack depth and perspective. Though not minimalist, they are stylised and portray emotion, rather than the overall essence of a scene. Colours abound, but lack any variation in tone and value. In the modern context, their discovery overlaps with the inclusion of “primitive concepts” in art in the West; works of artists like Picasso and Matisse, who had borrowed from Micronesian, African and American Indian art, grew in popularity in the 20th century and continue to dominate discourse in art. The importance and contribution of Mithila paintings to a larger idiom is better understood in this context.