Santhal Folk Painting of Bengal

The Santhal folk painting, drawn by the Santhal tribes living in Bengal, is a folk art with a distinctive style of their own. Here we see paintings where the tribes are in musical procession or illustration of other simple themes like harvest, family life, and rituals of their life.

The Santhals paint in Pata or cloth. These then form the scrolls which unfurl to tell a story. They take the paintings from village to village not to sell their paintings but to get money in form of donations by singing songs based on the stories. These songs are known as Pater Gaan.

Santhals earlier used natural colors which were prepared from various leaves and flowers. But now they have started painting on paper in small and medium-size scrolls created by stitching two sheets of paper together.

We know that Jamini Roy, one of India’s great artists was inspired by folk paintings of Bengal.

Though we loosely refer these paintings as Santhal tribal painting or folk painting of Bengal, their styles vary in form and application of color from region to region. Bankura, Midnapore or Kalighat have very different styles. Even the themes distinctly differ.

Here we paint almost the same theme in two different styles.

Use watercolor paper and acrylic paints to paint. You can use watercolor or poster colors to paint too. First, visit some pinned paintings of folk art.

Kalighat folk painting

The Kalighat folk paintings have bold colors with strong definite strokes for outlines. There is a visual rhythm movement of the people in the paintings. The side faced girls have a pleasant facial expression. All around these actions of people are paintings of items that are used in day to day life of these tribes.  Overall the picture is busy and bright.

Midnapore folk painting

The Midnapore folk art, on the other hand, have finer lines and more detailed work. They focus on a theme and paint around the theme. The paintings have fewer colors as compared to the Kalighat painting and have a subtlety in their depiction. The eyes are elongated covering almost the entire face.

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