The name “Kalighat (Kalighata) Pata” is applied to a class of paintings and drawings on paper produced by a group of artists called patuas in the neighboourhood of the famous Kali temple at Kalighat (Kalighata), now a part of Calcutta, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The art activates of these patuas, which shared some common technical and stylistic characteristics, developed into an industry turning out a great number of picture to meet popular demand of pilgrims and others. The arts selected as their themes for delineation popular Hindu deities. Incarnations and saints, epic and puranic anecdotes, Historical events, incidents of daily life, social skits and different species of Indian fauna.
Though the exact date of the beginning of the activities of the patuas at Kalighat cannot be determined, it must have been several decades earlier than 1888, when T. N. Mukherjee noticed of the sale of a great number of paintings at inter alia Kalighat. The vast majority of the Indian specimens were acquired in 1889. So it is not impossible that the art activates in question commenced sometime after the erection of the Kalighat temple and by second quarter of the 19th century A.D. The activities of the patuas as a creative group are considered to have by c. A.D. 1930, though a few of them are known to have are known to have been alive even in the sixties of the present century and at least one, If not more, can be noticed even now as trying to produce Kalighat pata. But, on the Kalighat style flourished and declined or at leclined or at least began to at least to decline during the British rule in Calcutta, the cultural metropolis of India.
The name “pata” associated with the relevant products of kalighat suggests that their conceptual origin can be traced to the paintings on patas (or “pieces of cloth”) well known in ancient and mediaeval India. The term, originally perhaps denoting denoting” cloth” was also considered to mean inter alia “a painted piece of cloth” and “a picture”. Of the two recorded varieties of patas, Viz., scroll and square, the Kalighat patas belong to the latter variety. Each of them depicts one single event or theme unlike the scroll patas dealing with seral events or themes resting to one broas subject.
The patas, generally assigned to the Kalighat style, are on hand made or made or machine-made paper, as in cases of several scroll patas (a few of which are now in the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art). Apparently the name “pata” is associated with these products in the sense of denoting the pictures themselves after the changes of their base material from cloth to paper. At kalighat thin paper (of about 42-46 by 27-28 cms. 35-37 by 26-28 cms., 46-48 by 35-37 cms. In size) is known to have been used for turning out cheap “mass” (rasi) production, while thick stiff paper is noticed to have been untilised for creating more costly “royal” (raja) patas (with slight variations in size), which were finished perhaps more carefully.
The Kalighat artists initially came to the Kalighat area from inter alia different areas of the districts of 24 Parganas and Midnapore (or Medinipur). The attraction for the poor attraction for poor artists was the readily available customers (including the pilgrims) in the locality around the Kalighat temple, which was developing into a business centre. Many of these artists, though economically poor, were rich in their skill, well versed in pata tradition of rural Bengal and at least something also in certain classical traits (like shading) in Indian painting. They were capable of producing carefully executed pictures of high quality; but increasing commercial necessities would have demand of them quickly made products, without, however, discarding their basic quality. This seems to have actually happened at Kalighat.
The Kalighat pictures, which are on hand made or (more usually) machin-emade paper, do not betray any indication of priming or burnishing. The use of unprimed paper was known to indigenous artist from an earlier period (see below). It was also economical, less time-consuming and so natural for the artists and their students and desendants to use available cheap paper, usable to unprimed or unpolished, for producing moderately priced pictures, demand for which was increasing among pilgrims and visitors to Kalighat, including people unable to buy costly products.
In Kalighat drawings outlines are done in brush. In paintings the basic sketches or outlines are effected with brush or pencil, but not with pen and ink.
The drawings in brush are made, as observed by A. Ghosh, “With one bold sweep of the brush in not the faintest suspicion of even a momentary indecision, not the slightest tremor, can be detected. Often the whole figure in such a way that it defies you to say where the artist’s brush first touched the paper or where it finished its work”, these qualities, as S.K. Saraswati has rightly remarked,” are inherent in the structure of Indian artistic tradition.” Figures in good Kalighat picture betray a sense of volume effective by bold. Undulating and aweeping outlines (Pls. I-IV). The monumental quality of the line imparting to the figures the illusion of roundedness is inspired by the artists ‘modeling in the Kalighat area. In fact, many of the artists themselves are known to have been makers of images in clay.
It is interesting to note that not much attention is given in the paintings to paintings to anatomical details. Hands and fact are often summarily treated, at least in the pictures of the second and phases (see below). But generally faces, oval or roundish in shape, are done with great care. These are characterized by a straight, often narrow, nose, a found chin, and soft lips, arched eyebrows and large expressive eyes (pls. I, II, VII and X).
Shading in Kalighat Paintings is done, following an done, following an age old Indian tradition, for Indian tradition, for producing an effect of roundedness or relif. The shading is effected by sweeping of the brush (or of a piece of cloth or cotton) soaked in water colour (on a partly damped paper),leaving the parts so swept darker then the rest and imparting a gradual ascent or descent of colour between the dark and non dark sides of the pictures. Vanishing tone is skillfully arranged to affect a bold outline. Brush is sometimes used for demarcating outlines of certain feature like nose, eyes, fingers, etc. The folds of garments are indicated by a number of parallel strokes (straight or curved).
The colours used in Kalighat paintings are yellow, blue, Indian red, green, black, etc. Occasionally, mainly in comparatively early specimens, silvery and golden colours were used for ornamentation. These colours (or at least most of them) were apparently made of indigenous ingredients. For an example, we can refer colour which was apparently produced from common soot. Even now an artist of some merit, claiming to be a Kalighat patua, prepares his colours from common indigenous ingenious. He uses paper and home-made brush prepared with sheep’s hair. In these cases he claims to be following his old family tradition, maintained for several generations. However, for making brushes by earlier Kalighat artists hair of squirrel or goat’s tall would have been a better material.
The colours are apparently thinner than those in earlier pata paintings but they are not always fully transparent (as in British water-colour paintings). White pigment is not known to have been mixed with colour (at least not in noticeable quantity), excepting perhaps in cases of few known early examples (of which two are in the Astrosh Museum of Calcutta). According to some practicing artists, the reason for avoiding the mixing of while pigment with colours by the Kalighat painters, who increasingly become commercial turning out great number of parts to meet popular demand, was perhaps the fact the shading in colour containing whitening element could have been a time consuming process. The was hardly suitable to the painters trying to produce pictures in shortest possible time. This hypothesis indicates the economic reason influenced the artists to modify their method of colo
Kalighat Patas: Paintings and Drawings of the kalighat style.
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