Text Size
Background History of Paintings

Pre- historic and stone age finds have been discovered in the remote areas of Myanmar. Among these rare finds are stone age paintings found in the Pyadalin cave in the Taunggyi district of Shan State. There are nine cave paintings in brown colours at a height of about 10 to 11 feet on the cave walls.

Mural Paintings

Bagan era


In the 11th century, Myanmar traditional painting was derived from India culture in Bagan and floral patterns were the feature of these murals. The development of mural painting coincided with the strengthening of the Buddhist religion during this era, thus religious themes are showcased. There were no mural paintings depicting the social lives of the people though the lifestyles of the Bagan people can be understood through these paintings. In the 17th century during the Kone Baung Era, the Bagan mural paintings moved away from the parla or Indian influence and developed into more of a Myanmar style.

Inwa era


Mural paintings from the Inwa era, between the 16th and 17th centuries, can be found in the Shwesigon pagoda, Mee Pauk pagoda, and in caves at the Phoewun Hills in the Monywa district. Paintings of this era mark the end of Myanmar traditional flat painting. In the Cularmani pagoda, the upper parts of the mural paintings depict stories and the lower parts depict the social life of people living in the Inwa era. Only red and green paints were used in Inwa mural paintings.

Earlier Konbaung era (17th century)

Mural paintings from the earlier Kone Baung era can be found in the Aungmyay Lawka pagoda, the Yokesone Illustrated pagoda, and the Pyathat pagoda of Khin Mon village, Chaung 00 Township, Monywa. These paintings can also be found at the Ananda Brick monastery of Bagan. The paintings mark the transition from Myanmar traditional flat painting to western styles of perspective and tones. Blue was generously used and the paintings recorded the life styles, entertainment and scenery of that era.

Amarapura Era

Mural painting of Amarapura era can be found in Taungthaman Kyauktawgyi pagoda, Amarapura and Shwesaryan Phocalar pagoda. Scenes in these paintings were not drawn in perspective, but in a bird's eye view. Most of these paintings depicted the life styles and social activities of this era and includes activities such as paying homage to the pagoda, keeping Sabbath, pilgrims traveling in carts and boats, people giving alms to monks, and children playing. Blue was the dominant colour in these paintings, but incomplete paintings show line sketches in red.

Yatanabon Era

The most famous artist of this era is U Kyar Nyunt who served as a royal artist to King Mindon. After his death, his son Saya Sa was made a royal painter by King Thibaw. However Saya Sa became blind, and Saya Chon, a pupil of U Kyar Nyunt, was employed as the royal artist together with two Italian artists. The influence of the two Italian artists meant that the western style of painting began to penetrate Myanmar traditional style. But, compared to other eras, paintings during the Yatanabon Era were predominantly Myanmar influenced.
Two remarkable paints produced by Saya Chon were "Royal ceremony of ploughing," and "Partawmu (Dethronement)."

Up until the Yadanarbon era, Myanmar artists blended their own paints and made their brushes themselves. Cloth and paper were used for painting as well as parchment. A factory producing indigo had been established in the Konbaung era, so blue was generously used. Although the western style began to penetrate Myanmar paintings, traditional line sketches still remained intact. But annexation by the British in 1885, the traditional Myanmar style of painting started to decline.

The Palm Leaf Painting


In olden days, Myanmar people used palm leaves as writing paper, and they wrote with a pointed style on the strips of a palm leaf, which could be coiled. Ancient Myanmar artists of Myanmar only drew sketches on the palm leaves.

There were four kinds of painting, which formed the basic principles adopted by the artists of ancient Bagan. They are kanote (floral curlicues), nari (portrait drawing of men), gaza (style of depicting elephants, horses, etc.), Kapi (technique of drawing apes and the like.)

During the colonial period and the second world war, a great number of pagodas, stupas, monastries and rest house, along with the palm-leaf sketches, were destroyed by fire or air-raid. But in some monasteries palm leave drawing and parchment paintings remained intact despite through the chaos. Some are now displayed in the National Museum of Myanmar. The most famous of are thirty one palm-leaf paintings called lokakunchur. There are also fifteen Myanmar palm-leaf and parchment paintings on exhibit in the British Museum, London, showcasing drawings of Vutsandra Jataka and Heaven.

Parabeik (or Parchment) painting

Parchment painting, which began during the Inwa era, reached its zenith in the Konebaung era.
Parchment painting is regarded as the second stage of traditional Myanmar Art. The paintings are the forerunner to books because they generally recorded important events of the royal court in words or pictures. They are therefore also called chronicle paintings.

There were two kinds of parchment, black and white. White parchment had thirty two pages and the paintings included renderings of elephant and horses, Jatakas, life stories of Buddha, maps and ground plans, flowers, fish, martial arts, military maneuvers, and royal ceremonies. The most famous parchment painting, Royal Excursion drawn by U Kyar Nyunt is no longer in Myanmar and is exhibited in the National Museum of England.
Parchment paintings of great events were drawn on pieces of paper and folded as a single parchment. The entire scene can be viewed when the parchment paintings are spread out, and such paintings are considered records of royal life.

The Art under Colonialism ( 1885-1945)

During the colonial era, an artist noted for his great work was U Saya Aye. He studied art under the close guidance of Saya Chon, the last royal artist of the Konebaung dynasty during the reign of King Thibaw. When Saya Aye became famous for his traditional sketches, one of his contemporaries was U Maung Gyi, a sailor who studied art in Europe and who had more of a western style. He was excellent in transparent water color. He was the first Myanmar artist able to exhibit his works abroad and whose paintings were printed and sold in Germany. Due to influence of U Maung Gyi, western style art began to spread in Mandalay. In the later years of colonialism, two artists who were able to handle the water color skillfully were U Thant (1896-1982), and Saya Saung (1898-1952) who became known as prince of watercolor.

Saya Saung was awarded a gold medal in 1967 for his outstanding work, and his remarkable art captured international attention. Captain Thomas Heath of the Allied Army bought ten of Saya Saung's paintings and wrote an article titled of The Renaissance of Myanmar Watercolor Paintings in an English periodical during the Second World War.

Several other artists also became popular during colonial period, including U Ban Nyan (1897-1945), who introduced impressionism to Myanmar. He studied art at the Yellow Gate Art School in England. He developed an innovative style in Myanmar oil painting with strong brush strokes. U Ba Zaw (1891-1943) also became renowned for both traditional style and western style paintings. In 1927 the government sent him to study at the Royal Institute of Art in England.

Another painter who exuded fine workmanship was U Saw Maung. His paintings of King Kosala's sixteen point dreams still hang on the side walls of Kyauktawgyi pagoda. He was the son of artist Saya Aye who was widely known for his portraits and paintings about the life stories of Lord Buddha.

U Ngwe Kaing (1901-1967) was the most zealous artist in the effort ton improve his workmanship.
Contemporary art also flourished during the 20th century, and most Myanmar artists stood out because of their modern works. Among them was U Paw Oo Thet who combined traditional and modern techniques in his works.

Today art movement

The contemporary 70-year-old artist U Lun Gywe is Myanmar's foremost and the most respected impressionist. His teacher was U Than Han who studied under U Ba Nyan, the artist who introduced realism and impressionism to Myanmar in the 1930s. U Lun Gywe is considered the master of drawing in both for realism and contemporary arts.
Among the younger generation, Min Wae Aung is one of the moist successful and internationally recognized artists. His traditionalized contemporary artworks are often exhibited in London, Singapore and other neighboring countries.

Another modern impressionist is U Myo Khin from Mandalay. His strokes are very bold and strong yet he expresses delicate feelings in a meaningful paintings. He is the owner of the Mandalay Htan Yeik Nyo gallery where top artists meet and share their love of arts. His Htan Yeik Nyo gallery holds monthly exhibitions every year and many visitors can explore Myanmar fine art.

Myanmar artists are now endeavoring to work in many diverse forms and techniques. Some by use various media such as bottle art, decorated straw art and candle arts without violating realism or Myanmar traditional techniques.

Currently Myanmar contemporary art is more in the impressionist style.

Friday, September 19, 2014

 

 

Subscribe Newsletters & Alerts

Page-URL

QR-Code