While most art lovers might be familiar with names of international masters of art, this is a chance to discover Nainsukh, the 18th century court artist who created a niche within the Pahari style of painting

Nowadays, people document moments from their lives by capturing these through photographs, video or film. With the popularity of social networking sites and advanced technology, these are beamed to all corners of the world for everyone to see, marvel and comment upon. Centuries ago, it wasn't that easy in the mid 18th century. Emperors had to hire artists to document their lives and one such artist with a royal patron was Nainsukh.

Balwant Singh supervises a building construction. This is a perfect e
xample of Nainsukh's miniatures, where the emphasis is on the king in
full colour while the background is plain with the workers depicted in
line drawings

Nainsukh, who?
Nainsukh was an 18th century Pahari miniature artist commissioned by Raja Balwant Singh of Guler descent. The Pahari style of painting is very similar to the Mughal style of painting, although more lyrical and fluid. Interestingly, the Raja wasn't well-known in history but Nainsukh's documentation in his miniatures have ensured his name will be etched in public and artistic memory.

Balwant Singh writing a letter to Amrit Pal of Basholi. Several of
Nainsukh's paintings had details of the event being documented
written by him

"Nainsukh and Manaku, both artists, were the sons of Pandit Sew who used to be in the Mughal court. That's how Nainsukh adopted the Mughal style but give his own touch to it, which then resulted in the Pahari and the Kangra style of paintings," says Vandana Prapanna, senior curator of Indian miniature paintings at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghrahalaya (CSMVS).

An equestrian portrait of a lady, which some other paintings suggest as
being court musician, Amal. This is a different example of his paintings
the background is in full colour but it displays another characteristic
of the Pahari style, that of showing nature in different hues of green

Miniature matters
There are a total of 65 miniature paintings by Nainsukh 17 of which are with the museum. Sir Dorab Tata donated the first lot in 1933 while the second came later, in 1994 by Karl Khandalawala. Two of the miniatures have been loaned to museum by the Indian Museum, Kolkata. 

Balwant Singh seated under a tent

Nainsukh's paintings document the life of his patron King Balwant Singh and depict many of his day-to-day activities such as writing a letter or trimming a beard unlike several other royal portraits that depict kings and queens decked head to toe in jewels and royal finery.

He was known as a master of lines and many of his miniatures have simple line drawing characterised by minimal colouring. Lack of background with total attention to the subject to the portrait is also an important characteristic of his style of painting.
Till: December 11, 10.15 am to 6 pm
At: Seminar Hall, CSMVS, Fort.
Call: 22844519