Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page

Black Ground Masterworks

Subjects, Topics & Types
- Description (below)
- Source Literature
- Black Silk
- Black Cloth
- Dating Black Ground Paintings (HAR on Patreon)
- Ground Colours Main Page
- Confusions
- Others...

- Black Ground Painting
- Rubin Museum Black Ground Masterworks
- Four Ground Colours

- Black Ground Painting (Rubin Museum Masterworks)
- Black Ground (Eastern Tibet, Kham)
- Black Ground (Qianlong Period)
- Vajrabhairava Black Ground
- Others...

Black ground paintings can be dated to the end of the first millennium based on literature. A few painting examples can be seen in the 14th and 15th centuries. The earliest descriptions for black ground paintings are for wrathful figures to be drawn on a black painted surface created from charnel ground ashes. The textual source for black ground paintings is found with the Tantras of Indian Buddhist literature such as the Twenty-five and Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantras.

Historically and traditionally, black ground paintings were appropriate only for wrathful and fearsome subjects. In the Tantric Buddhist system there are four activities associated with four principal colours: peaceful - white, increasing - yellow, powerful - red, and wrathful - black, or dark blue. In the 20th century, for the purposes of commodity and souvenir art, black ground is used with any type of figure, categorized by appearance or function, that the artist chooses to depict, without regard for religious or artistic tradition.

Study Topics:
- Four Ground Colours
- Black Ground
- 7/8th Century
- Wrathful/semi-wrathful Deities
- Hevajra, Chakrasamvara & Mahakala Tantras
- Addition of Colour
- Mixed Black Ground & Figures with Colour
- Modern Black Ground & Other Figures

Database Search: All Images

Jeff Watt 3-2004 [updated 4-2017, 1-2018, 1-2020]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).