The Mughals took a keen interest in paintings and patronized various painters, which reflected Indo-Persian synthesis. Originating from the time of Babur, the art of Mughal painting flourished with the time.
Paintings of the Mughal Era depict various themes ranging from fables of Persian literature to Hindu Mythology, like portraits of the royalty, details of the court life, wildlife, hunting scenes, and battle illustrations. Many of the paintings produced are now housed at various museums around the world.
Mughal Paintings under different Mughal rulers:
Although a great lover of art, Babur could not contribute towards this art as he mostly remained busy in waging war.
The foundation of Mughal painting was laid by Humayun during his exile from India in Persia and Afghanistan.
Two of Persia’s greatest painters Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad came with him to Delhi.
Under his rule, the Mughal painting evolved and developed at a rapid pace. Akbar ordered the creation of many paintings and paid close attention to the final output of all these artworks. He was very particular about the details and the artistic elements involved.
More than 100 painters were recruited from different parts of India, which include Daswant, Basawan, Keshav, and Farrukh Beg. Some of the finest paintings are also found in the ‘Akbarnama’, written by Abul Fazl.
He commissioned several massive painting projects, which include Tutinama (an episodic Persian story divided into 52 parts), Hamzanama, (which narrated the legend of Amir Hamza), Gulistan, Darab Nama, etc.
During Jahangir’s time, art of painting reached its climax. He was not only interested in painting but also a good judge of art. Jahangir attracted many artists at his court.
Painting became almost an industry with a fine regard for the division of labor. One artist drew the outline of scenes of men and animals; the specialist in landscape drew the background; the colourist filled the colours. Sometimes four or five artists worked on a single painting. Manohar and Basawan excelled in portrait painting, Mansur specialized in painting rare animals and birds, and Abul Hasan was an expert in designing a colour scheme.
European art also attracted Jahangir. He ordered his painters to follow the single point perspective used by European artists. As a result, most of the Mughal paintings commissioned by Jahangir had finer brush strokes and lighter colours. One of the major projects commissioned by him was the ‘Jahangir Nama.’ It was an autobiography of Jahangir, and it consisted of several paintings that included unusual themes, such as fights between spiders.
He was more interested in architecture and neglected painting. He reduced the number of court painters; however, Mughal painting continued to expand during his rule.
The paintings that were displayed in the court became increasingly rigid and formal. However, he commissioned many paintings meant to be his personal collection.
These paintings were based on themes like gardens and pictures that gave great aesthetic pleasure. He also ordered many works that portrayed lovers in intimate positions.
One of the most important works produced during his reign was the ‘Padshanama.’’ which narrated the achievements of the King, contained several paintings of the courtiers and servants as well.
Aurangzeb’s lack of interest in painting reduced more the number of court painters.
Several artists dismissed from his court found shelter in the courts of several Hindu and Muslim provincial rulers.
It resulted in the development of regional painting traditions in Rajasthan and the Punjab hills (Pahari Painting).