Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Color/Colours Introduction Page

Painting Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:

1. Art History: Colours
--- Region & Time Period
--- Pigments & Preparation
--- Four Painting Ground Colours
--- Coloured Mountains

2. Iconography: Colours
--- Four Activities & Deity Colours
--- What Are the Colours? (Outline)
--- White
--- Yellow
--- Red
--- Blue/Black
--- Green
--- Multi-coloured
--- Other Colours
--- Mandalas & Directions
- Confusions
- Others...

- An Answer to a Question on Colors in Himalayan Art
- A Question on Colors of Deities

Colours are a complex topic in Himalayan art. With regard to [1] art history colours and pigments are related to period, region and painting tradition. [2] Iconography and the colours of deities and mandalas closely follow the rules of Tantric theory and the Four Activities. Artists require knowledge of both traditional painting styles of a region and period and the colour requirements for each of the deity figures as prescribed in the Tantric literature.

There are a fixed number of principal colours which relate to Tantric theory: [1] white for peaceful activities, [2] yellow for increasing activities, [3] red for powerful activities and [4] blue/black for wrathful activities. Green is considered a combination of those four colours and represents all of the activities together with the principal example in art being the figure of Green Tara.

Colours can also be related to the principal elements such as sky, earth, fire and water. Colours have direction with regard to the four sides of Mount Meru and to Tantric charts and mandalas. The master artists through training and experience learn how to complement and contrast the deity figures so as not to have the colours clash or obscure the central subject of a composition.

Jeff Watt 5-2020

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