Himalayan Art Resources

Painting: Portraits Study Guide (Early Works)

Painting: Portraits Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
1. Karmapa (Early Works)
2. Pagdru Kagyu (Early Works)
3. Khon Lineage Teachers (Early & Later Works)
- Confusions
- Others...

- Introduction: Early Portrait Paintings
1. Karmapa Early Portraits (3 Karmapas)
2. Pagdru Kagyu Portraits
3. Khon Lineage Portraits

Early Tibetan portrait paintings generally follow after Indian painting style. Extant portraits can be found belonging to the Kadma, Sakya and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Both Kadam and Nyingma painting examples are very few and it is not always clear who the different portraits are depicting.

An easy method to study early portrait painting is to look at three different subject groups. The groups are the early Karmapas, early Pagdru Kagyu teachers and Khon family portraits.

With the Karmapas it is the first three that are the most interesting, Dusum Khyenpa, Karma Pakshi and Rangjung Dorje. The three are almost identical in appearance with matching monastic robes and each wearing a small black hat in the manner of a cap.

With the Pagdru Kagyu there are many examples of Pagmodrubpa Dorje Gyalpo portraits and additionally for his students descending through the Taglung and Drigung traditions. At this time there are very few early Drugpa Kagyu paintings available for study.

The Khon family lineage has some early portrait works but not nearly in the numbers of the Taglung and Drigung Kagyu. As an example of later works and comparing the development of Tibetan painting styles the Khon portrait paintings, they are looked at over a longer time period extending right up to the 19th century.

Jeff Watt 12-2021

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