Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Pilgrimage Art (Paintings)

Pilgrimage Art Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description: Four Types (below)
- 1. Site Location Paintings
- 2. Pre-made Paintings
- 3. Paintings for Newar Merchants
- 4. Temple Shop/Tourist Paintings
- Confusions: Fake Art
- Others...

Site Location Paintings are discussed separately because they are such a large subject of pilgrimage art.

After site location artworks, paintings are further generally discussed as pre-made works, paintings for Newar Merchants, and temple shop/tourist paintings. It is difficult to identify pre-made paintings from hundreds of years ago, however today pre-made works are commonplace and generally the norm for any art purchases. Commissioning a painting is difficult and expensive in modern times. With the tremendous amount of tourist art produced in both Nepal and China it can be very difficult to acquire traditional style art of any quality without some expert help.

Paintings for Newar Merchants are pre-made works and usually of an average and acceptable quality. The works can generally be identified by painting style but the most unique feature is a strip of black unadorned surface running along the bottom of the composition. This strip is made blank so that the purchaser of the painting can have inscribed a dedication inscription, the addition of personal names, and a Nepalese date. There are many examples of paintings with a complete inscription and many examples that remain blank awaiting an inscription.

Tourist paintings are very similar in craftsmanship to village art and suspect art. Some examples can be of an acceptable art quality and iconographic correctness while other works are clearly inferior and the iconography only limited to the imagination of the artist. Many tourist paintings are simply incorrect in their depictions of Buddhist figures, likely Hindu and Bon as well.

There is a long held belief that religious art should be commissioned and not store purchased. Pre-made religious objects are thought to be without merit, commodity goods, and created without proper motivation. Although motivation of the artist was the primary consideration, the 5th Dalai Lama also questioned the quality of the workmanship of the pre-made goods.

Jeff Watt 8-2021

(Please see the article Tibetan tourist thangkas in the Kathmandu Valley by Yael Bentor, December 1993).

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