Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Masterworks Description (Painting)

Art Evaluation Criteria (Traditional Painting)

Within the study of the field of Himalayan art and iconography there are excepted norms and standards that are applied to objects deemed a masterwork, or falling within the broad area of what are classified as masterworks. There are two main subjects: iconographic accuracy and cultural convention.

Iconographic Accuracy is a depiction of a figure correctly followed as described in the tantric source literature and the authoritative commentaries. From the Eleven Figurative Appearances or forms. Appearance in general refers to facial expression, body type, clothing and ornamentation. Specific figures within a category can have multiple faces and arms and positioned in various postures, seated or standing. Figures are generally distinguished by gender, colour, faces and limbs, hand attributes and posture. Sometimes there are special characteristics unique to a particular deity.

Cultural Convention refers to the stylistic elements relating to a place and time. The style and quality of a work are the two most important considerations. Paintings can generally be categorized as belonging to a tradition in general followed by a specific style. There are three main criteria in analyzing a painting: line, colour and composition. Line refers to the quality of the basic drawing. Colour refers to the quality of the pigments, preparation, application and shading. Composition relates to the placement of the subject elements within the physical space of the cloth ground of the artwork.

Stylistic elements are based on cultural convention from specific times and regions. Those broad cultural areas and in some examples specific regional areas can have many different styles which are further identified by time period. The major cultures are India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia and China. The chronological period for all of these is generally the 11th through to the 19th century.

Jeff Watt, 7-2021