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Techniques And Art Of Painting In Vishnudharmottara Purana

Vishnudharmottara Purana is one of the important technical texts on the art of painting in Hinduism. Vishnudharmottara Purana is the appendix-text of Vishnu Purana. The third section (kanda) of this text is exclusively devoted to the discussion about arts. Although almost all the important Puranas deal with the arts in some of their chapters, the Vishnudharmottara Purana stands apart because of its extensive coverage of the arts in general, and the art of painting in particular. The other Purana, which serves as the repository of information about the arts, as also of paining, is the Agni Purana, Matsya Purana, Vayu Purana and Shiva Purana also have interesting source material for the study of the arts of painting, sculpture, architecture and iconography.

The third kanda of Vishnudharmottara Purana consists of the five sections, each dealing with a particular branch of art in detail. The first section deals with the preliminaries as a sort of general introduction to the other sections. Its emphasis is on the etymology and diction of the literary arts, and also on the concept of the dependence of virtually all forms of art on the art of painting. The second section, entitled the Natyasutra, speaks of the dramatic arts, and discusses all facets of dance, drama and music. The third section, entitled the Chitrasutra, gives a detailed account of the art of painting. The fourth section, entitled Pratima Lakshana, covers matters on iconography of images represented in art. The title of the fifth section, which is the last one, is Prasada Lakshana; it gives an elaborate account of architecture, both religious and secular.

As the prime source of information about the art of painting, Chitrasutra of Vishnudharmottara Purana is very well known, and the information about the techniques and aesthetics of the art of painting available from this text seems to be very relevant to the practices. Chitrasutra discusses almost all the important aspects of the techniques and method of painting. For instance, it discusses items like preparations of the ground, the career of painting, appropriate brushes, pencils, crayons and the like. It speaks elaborately of primary colors, as also of secondary and tertiary colors and the methods and circumstance of their application. There is an elaborate discussion on various aspects of composition including those related to perspective and foreshortening. Also it deals with the subject matter and its appropriate selection for a painting. Interestingly, it occasionally makes observations on the appreciation of painting.